A witness in former Malaysian leader Najib Razak’s trial testified that the ex-premier offered projects to China in exchange for help resolving 1MDB’s debt.
Fugitive financier Jho Low represented Najib in the meeting with China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, or SASAC, which was attended by witness Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, a former aide to Najib. Low and Najib planned to use agreements with Chinese state-linked companies to bail out 1MDB’s debt, Amhari said.
The testimony is the first confirmation from a former official in Malaysia’s previous government that there were talks with Chinese institutions for help in resolving the 1MDB scandal in exchange for state deals. SASAC didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, which ousted Najib in a surprise election win last year, hasn’t confirmed the talks either. The government said in January it was investigating whether the cost of China-backed infrastructure projects was inflated due to links to 1MDB’s debt. That’s after the Wall Street Journal reported that senior Chinese leaders offered to help bail out the troubled state fund in 2016.
SASAC was offered projects including the East Coast Rail Link, the witness said, which had been put on hold by Mahathir before being resumed at a lower cost of 44 billion ringgit ($11 billion). The Trans-Sabah gas pipeline, a Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok high-speed rail and the development of offshore financial hub Labuan were also tabled at the meeting, he said.
Najib, who has pleaded not guilty, faces the biggest set of charges for his alleged role in 1MDB in the current trial, which revolves around 25 corruption allegations against him linked to the state fund’s billion-dollar bond deals and acquisitions. Hadi Azmi, Bloomberg