Thursday 20 Jun 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 14): Former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) general counsel Jasmine Loo told the court at the 1MDB-Tanore trial that fugitive Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) had threatened to make her life "a living hell" if she returned to Malaysia.

"Basically, Jho Low has sworn to turn my life into a living hell and to use his every resource and power to ensure that I meet a terrible end if I return to Malaysia," Loo told the court on Wednesday.

The prosecution witness, who left Malaysia in 2018 and only returned five years later in July 2023, said she was subject to threats prior to her return to the country.

Deputy public prosecutor Deepa Nair Thevaharan asked, "Upon your arrival to Malaysia, have you ever received any threats to testify in this case?"

A bespectacled Loo, who was dressed in all black on Wednesday, replied, "No, but prior to that,” referring to Jho Low’s threat.

In September, the police said Loo had helped identify assets worth over RM93.2 million purchased using 1MDB monies. Loo is still being investigated by other enforcement agencies over the 1MDB scandal.

Instructed against returning to Malaysia after GE14

Earlier, Loo said that she did not abscond, but was already abroad prior to Malaysia’s 2018 general election (GE14), which saw the historic ouster of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership

She testified that she had left Kuala Lumpur earlier in April 2018 and was in Bangkok, adding that she had "no intention of running away".

"When the results [of GE14] came out, I was instructed by Jho Low to remain abroad and not to return to the country. 

“He said to me that things would get very ugly for me and it would be much worse if I returned to Malaysia. He promised to resolve things and that he will just [monitor] the situation and advise [accordingly]. He basically asked [me] for more time before returning to the country," she testified.

Loo said that as she was in Thailand, she was "acutely aware" of what happened to 1MDB whistleblower Xavier Justo, who had been imprisoned there over allegations linked to the 1MDB scam.

Hence, she said, she feared reprisal and feared for her own safety. Saying that she did not want to become "the next Xavier Justo", she followed instructions to not "endanger" herself.

Justo, a Swiss national, spent 18 months in Thai prison for trying to blackmail PetroSaudi over stolen documents in 2015. PetroSaudi is one of the entities that received funds from 1MDB through the scandal.

Loo said that it was always her desire to return to Malaysia and cooperate with the authorities, but "felt cornered", as she felt she could not ensure a safe return. Amid "obstacles and challenges" to return, Loo said she had to first arrange for safe passage to come back.

She went on to say that she first had to resolve the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) lawsuit which she was party to — and she took action in 2019. Around April 2021, her lawyers submitted a letter of representation to the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) "offering cooperation and seeking safe passage" back to Malaysia.

Received funds from Jho Low to survive abroad

When asked how she survived abroad all these years, Loo said that she subsisted on her own funds, with Jho Low later arranging delivery of US$2,500 (RM11,960) "every eight or nine months" through various third parties.

“I was not working. I lived on whatever funds I had with me. And from time to time, maybe from eight to nine months, Jho Low would send someone or strangers to deliver funds to me. Approximately about US$2,500 for another year or so,”

“I mean, it's deplorable to have to rely on someone who has sworn to make my life a living hell but I felt I had no choice but to survive because I had no other means,” Loo elaborated.

She also testified that besides a salary, she received perks and benefits such as car and driver allowances when working alongside Jho. Besides this, she also received funds from the fugitive, but did not know that these were sourced from 1MDB.

"If I had known, I would not have accepted it. Those funds were promised to me for my contributions at UBG Group which he promised as ex-gratia and golden hand shake when I left. So I felt I was entitled to them," she said.

She said that all these funds, assets, bank accounts have been returned or surrendered to the Malaysian government or the rightful authorities such as the US DOJ.

Only saw judge Sequerah for the first time since 2008 yesterday

Upon Loo’s return, trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah had disclosed that he and Loo were partners in Messrs Zain & Co, more than a decade ago while the Court of Appeal (COA) judge was practising law.

This prompted the defence to apply to disqualify the judge, which was subsequently dismissed. The court ruled that the defence failed to show that there was a real danger of bias, adding that past associations such as employment history alone are insufficient indications of that bias. The defence is appealing this decision.

When asked about this on Wednesday, Loo said that she left the firm at the end of 2008 and has not been in contact with the judge. Tuesday was the first time she saw Sequerah when she took the stand, she added.

Loo explained she first met Sequerah when she was a chambering student in 1997, and he was a litigation partner in the firm. Subsequently she was made partner in 2004. She testified that Sequerah was in the litigation department and she was "very much focused" on the corporate department.

In this trial, Najib faces four counts of abuse of power for using his position as then prime minister, finance minister and chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers to receive gratifications worth RM2.27 billion. He also faces 21 money laundering charges. The trial continues on Friday (Feb 16).

The Edge is covering the trial live here.

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.

Edited ByAdam Aziz
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