Sunday 01 Oct 2023
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 28, 2022 - April 3, 2022

IN 2013, fugitive-financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) had requested an 18-carat heart-shaped pink diamond for Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. But as the US jeweller only had a 22-carat pink diamond at the time, the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak received an upgrade.

The transaction was confirmed by high-end jewellery designer to the stars Lorraine Schwartz, who has corroborated that she received payment for the controversial pink diamond necklace from funds belonging to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

In the ongoing trial of former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, prosecutor Alixandra Smith read from Schwartz's statement last week, in which Schwartz said that she had known Jho Low since 2011. In June 2013, he contacted her with a request to create a pink diamond necklace.

"Low requested that the centre stone be an 18-carat heart-shaped pink diamond," Smith said reading from the 17-point stipulated statement. Schwartz informed Jho Low that she had a 22-­carat pink diamond she could use as the centre stone instead.

“On or about July 5, 2013, Ms Schwartz met Low, Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the former prime minister of Malaysia Najib Razak, Mohamed (Badawy) Al-Husseiny (former CEO of Aabar Investments PJS) and others aboard a yacht that was docked off the coast of Monaco to show them the pink diamond centre stone,” Smith read.

Schwartz described the necklace that the stone would be set in and Jho Low, Rosmah and Al-Husseiny inspected the stone.

The total invoice for the pink diamond necklace was US$27.3 million and comprised US$23 million for the pink diamond centre and US$4.3 million for the diamond necklace it would be set in. The invoice was billed to a company called Blackrock at Jho Low's request.

Previously in his testimony, FBI agent Eric Van Dorn confirmed that one of the transfers made on Sept 10 was for the amount of US$27.3 million for the benefit of Najib and his wife.

It was part of additional expenditures out of Blackrock Commodities Global Ltd, one of the many entities connected to Jho Low, and used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned from 1MDB.

Van Dorn, a forensic accountant, confirmed that the money for the transfer came from 1MDB’s third and final bond issuance in 2013, code-named Project Catalyze.

On Sept 28, 2013, following Jho Low's request, Schwartz met him, Rosmah and others at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York to show them the layout of the necklace.

Rosmah selected an additional US$1.3 million worth of jewellery from the acclaimed designer on another occasion, when they met again in early 2014 at the Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles, where Schwartz showed her more jewellery.

Schwartz said she received a remittance of US$4.1 million to her account on Oct 10, 2014, from World Merit Management Ltd. World Merit Management is an account associated with Judy Chan, the ex-wife of Ng’s superior at Goldman Sachs, Tim Leissner.

Schwartz was alerted to the payment by Jho Low’s right-hand man, Eric Tan Kim Loong, known as “Fat Eric”.  She understood it to be payment for the jewellery Rosmah had selected at the Bel-Air.

Previously, in 2018, Najib had insisted that the diamond necklace was a gift from Sheikh Mansour Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and former chairman of International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

In a statement last Friday, Rosmah insisted she had neither received nor possessed the “US$23 million” necklace with a large pink diamond designed by Schwartz. She also denied any knowledge of the invoice produced and shown to the jury.

Schwartz, in her statement, also confirmed that she has never met Ng before as he was not present at any of the meetings mentioned. She added that Ng had neither shopped with her nor had he made payments to her for jewellery.

Also highlighted last week in court were further monies that were funnelled from Project Catalyze to buy artwork from prestigious auction house Christie’s in New York.

Citing Van Dorn’s findings again, Smith highlighted a June 2, 2013, email from Eric Tan regarding successful bids on five pieces of art by Tanore Finance Corp, another company associated with Jho Low.

One of the pieces that was successfully bid on was a piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat called Dustheads. In total, Tanore bought artworks worth US$58.3 million.


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