1MDB: Jasmine Loo Denied Striking A Deal To Have Charges Dropped

When questioned, the former 1MDB director said that she was unaware of the charges against her and has left it to her lawyers to look into it

Jasmine Loo Ai Suan, believed to be the former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) general counsel, but later informed that her official designation was Director, CEO’s Office, said she had not made any deals with the authorities in lieu of testifying in the ongoing 1MDB-Tanore trial.

The prosecution’s 50th witness said this on Friday in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial, where he is charged with abuse of power and money laundering.

Najib’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah suggested that the 50-year-old Loo had negotiated a deal with the authorities in lieu of testifying in this trial. Loo denied the senior counsel’s assertion.

Charged In Absentia

Shafee stated that since she was charged in absentia, and now she has been back for several months, does she know what are the charges against her?

During proceedings today, Loo testified that she was still unaware of the details of the charges against her and had left these to her local lawyers. On her part, she said that she is focused on the authority’s ongoing investigations.

Shafee: I’m putting it to you that you are fully aware of these charges and you have in fact negotiated in lieu of you giving evidence here that these charges would be dropped.

Loo: No, I don’t agree.

Based on records, Loo was charged in absentia in December 2018 where she was accused of laundering US$5 million (RM23.4 million) and US$999,975, being proceeds of unlawful activity received into the account of River Dee International SA (BVI) in Falcon Private Bank AG in Zurich.

The offence was framed under paragraph 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 [Act 613], punishable under subsection 4(1) of the same Act.

Loo left the country around April 2018 before the 14th general election (GE) that saw the fall of the Barisan Nasional government a month later. She returned to the country last July and has been assisting the authorities with 1MDB asset recovery efforts.

Prepared To Defend Herself

When asked if she had appeared in court for the matter or if she was aware of the progress of the case, she said that she is prepared to defend herself against the said charges.

Earlier, Loo also testified that River Dee International SA, a company she controlled, received about US$15 million of 1MDB funds, which had been forfeited to the US government as part of a consent judgement reached between the US and Loo.

Loo testified that River Dee was akin to a joint venture where monies were collected by different companies. She was the authorised signatory of the company.

“[It was] controlled by me but because of the investment agreement, I regarded myself as the trustee of monies in the account,” she said.

She also testified that at one point, she intended to contribute to the fund with her own funds but never got around to doing so. When asked which companies had invested in the ‘JV’, she replied that these companies include Affinity Equity Partners and Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners Ltd (BVI), which are companies linked to Eric Tan, a close associate of fugitive Low Taek Jho (Jho Low).

She went on to testify that Jho Low had deposited US$9 million into the account around 2012 or 2013, with additional monies also going into the account which were subsequently used to purchase high-end apartments in New York and London.

Apartments worth £1.8m in London and US$4.5m in New York

She confirmed that the funds were used to purchase an apartment in early 2014 near Harrods in Knightsbridge, the British luxury department store.

She testified that she never really lived there due to ongoing refurbishment work and added that the apartment was also not rented out due to media reports on 1MDB which surfaced in 2015.

She also testified that a US$4.5 million New York apartment was purchased in 2014.

Loo testified that she was unaware that these were monies linked to 1MDB at that material time. However, Loo also confirmed that all these have been forfeited to the US as part of the legal case linked to her. 

‘Jho Low appeared affluent’

She denied Shafee’s suggestion that these purchases were to legitimise proceeds from unlawful activities.

Loo countered that she had no reason to believe these monies were part of a scam because Jho Low had already made his money through his previous company UBG Berhad.

“Jho Low was already rich. He owned UBG Bhd. He made his millions. He was already a wealthy man. And after that he claimed that he had businesses and managed funds for [middle-eastern personalities],” she said.

1MDB CEO Told Her About Jho Low’s Closeness With Najib

Loo also testified that it was “indoctrinated” in her that Jho Low was Najib’s spokesperson. She said she arrived at this conclusion based on what former 1MDB chief executive officer Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi had told her and from her own observations, as well as Jho Low telling her so.

However, she later agreed with Shafee’s assertion that although she had seen Jho Low and Najib together during meetings, she had not personally heard the duo’s conversations.

The trial before judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on April 1.

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. – NMH

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