‘It is funny but it is true’, says Shafee on Jho Low’s role arranging Haj quota for Msia

The High Court trial involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak today heard how fugitive financier Low Taek Jho @ Jho Low managed to work miracles over the Haj quota for Malaysia by securing 10,000 additional places for our pilgrims within weeks.

(NST) – Jho Low, it was revealed, managed to do it effortlessly whereas our ambassador to Saudi Arabia at that time had failed to do so despite his best efforts working the diplomatic channels.

Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah got this confirmed when cross-examining a key prosecution witness in the trial, former 1MDB director Tan Sri Ismee ismail, who was also former Tabung Haji chief executive officer.

Ismee acknowledged that Jho Low had spoken to him about the Haj quota and wanted to know what it was all about sometime in 2012 or 2013.

He said weeks after the discussion, Jho Low told him that everything had been sorted.

“He told me the boss (Najib) would be calling me with the good news and true enough within 10 minutes a Cabinet minister called me and said we had been given additional 10,000 places,” Ismee said in reply to Shafee’s question about Jho Low’s role in arranging for the Haj quota.

Shafee then said even Najib had confirmed this with him and that Jho Low was known to get things done through the back channels.

“Even our ambassador there at that time, Professor Datuk Syed Omar Al-Saggaf, could not do it.

“It was not an easy thing to do but Jho Low, even as a non Muslim, managed to do it,” the senior lawyer said, adding that Jho Low had even arranged for the highest award given to a foreign leader by the Saudi government to be awarded to Najib.

He said only two other world leaders had been given such an award and they were the former United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“As the Malays say, this is ‘lucu tapi benar’ (it is funny but it is true),” Shafee said after Ismee said he too found it to be funny.

Ismee was testifying as the 13th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

Earlier, Ismee was also questioned about Jho Low’s links with the Sultan of Terengganu Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin and the roles played by former Ambank managing director Cheah Tek Kuang and former Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz in the 1MDB fiasco.

Ismee noted that the idea of forming the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), the precursor to 1MDB, was mooted by Sultan Mizan and had nothing to do with Najib.

Shafee then zoomed in on the issuance of the RM5 billion TIA bonds in 2009 by outlining how his client could not have received anything out of it as his Ambank bank accounts were only opened in 2011.

The lawyer argued that it would appear no one else benefitted from the RM5 billion fund-raising exercise apart from Jho Low, an individual known as Cheah Teik Seng and Zeti’s family.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues.