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1MDB funds used to buy land in Penang for low-cost housing, witness says

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Former 1MDB CEO Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman told the Court that the state investment arm had never discussed buying land in Penang at any meeting.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former 1MDB CEO Mohd Hazem Abdul Rahman told the Supreme Court in the trial of Najib Razak that part of the $ 3 billion raised for the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) and Bandar Malaysia projects was spent on land acquisition in Ayer Itam, Penang for the construction of low-cost housing.

He said that during the 2013 general election campaign, the former prime minister had announced that the land would be developed by 1MDB.

“The funds generated by the $ 3 billion bonds were spent as part of an initiative by Umno for their election campaign.

“However, we (1MDB) had never discussed this land acquisition in Penang in our meetings. The funds were intended for TRX, “said Hazem.

The witness added that after taking over responsibility at 1MDB, he became aware that the projects assigned to him were merely “vehicles” for fundraising purposes.

Hazem also testified that these projects were planned by runaway businessman Low Taek Jho (Jho Low).

The court heard that Goldman Sachs helped subsidiary 1MDB 1MDB Global Investment Ltd raise $ 3 billion by issuing bonds.

Hazem told the court today that 1MDB took US $ 2.71 million from the bonds, with Goldman Sachs remaining paid to cover their fees and other costs.

In addition to Ayer Itam land, he said part of the $ 2.71 billion raised was also used to pay off the 1MDB debt with Standard Chartered, which totaled RM 2 billion.

“Sometime in March 2013, Jasmine (Loo Ai Swan) told me that the funds would be invested in BSI Bank Singapore,” he said, referring to the then 1MDB general adviser.

Earlier today, Hazem said Low had also suggested to 1MDB Global Investment to open an account at BSI Bank in 2013 so that the money collected from the bonds could be deposited there.

He added that the account opening process was done through Loo, while Low told him and the chief financial officer, Azmi Tahir to be the signatories of the account.

“I should note that Azmi and I were merely signatories to the bank accounts and company documents while Jasmine and Terence (Geh Choh Heng) were the ones directing the show,” he said, referring to the company’s chief financial officer.

The witness added that Loo informed him that the money held in BSI Bank would be invested in three fund companies respectively, the Devonshire Capital Growth Fund, the Enterprise Emerging Market Fund and the Cistenique Investment Fund.

Hazem also said in September 2013, 1MDB wanted to buy an independent power producer from an energy company, Jimah Energy Ventures Sdn Bhd, and that this would cost the company about RM 1 billion.

“I contacted Jho Low, telling him we had to have funding from abroad for Jimah. He told me the money could not be touched as it was Umno funds.

“After hearing this, I realized that Datuk Seri Najib controls the finances for Umno,” he said.

Najib was hit with 25 counts of abuse of power and money laundering for alleged 1MDB funds totaling RM 2.28 billion deposited in his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.

The hearing continues before High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

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