Ex-aide says Najib, Rosmah and family holidayed on princes’ yachts in France, Greece, Italy as told by Jho Low; confirms taking group photo

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Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court May 9, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court May 9, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and their family went on several holiday trips on yachts purportedly owned by and on the alleged invitation of princes from Middle East countries in the France, Greece and Italy waters, Najib’s former aide told the High Court today.

Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail, who formerly served as special officer to Najib when the latter was prime minister, confirmed it was now-fugitive Low Taek Jho who had informed him of the invitations for holidays for Najib and his family.

Wan Ahmad Shihab, 48, said this while testifying as the 16th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

Wan Ahmad Shihab confirmed that he was also the one who had taken group photos of Najib and family on one of the yachts.

Wan Shihab said he had first known about Low — better known as Jho Low — during Najib’s work visit as deputy prime minister then to Washington DC in the US at around 2007 or 2008, and that Najib’s son Nor Ashman was part of this work delegation that was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel there.

Wan Shihab said he and Nor Ashman had gone down to the hotel lobby and bumped into Low who was seated with several unknown individuals at the sofa there, and that Nor Ashman had greeted Low after seeing him.

“I was told by Ashman that man is Jho Low and he is the elder brother of Datuk Seri Najib’s family’s good friend namely Taek Szen. But I did not communicate with Jho Low at that time and only saw him from afar. That is the first time I saw Jho Low,” he said.

Later after Najib had become prime minister in 2009, Wan Shihab said he was contacted by Jho Low on three separate occasions from 2009 to 2013 to inform that Najib and his family had been invited to holiday on the yachts in Europe, and that Najib had later confirmed the information given by Low before Wan Shihab started making arrangements for the holidays.

For these trips, Wan Shihab confirmed that Najib, Rosmah and their family had flown using a government-owned aircraft before going to the yachts.

The yacht trips in France, Greece, Italy

For the first trip, Wan Shihab said Low had contacted him in August 2009 to introduce himself, adding that Low had said that a Kuwait prince had invited Najib and the family to holiday in southern France on a yacht known as “RM Elegance” allegedly owned by the prince and the prince’s friend Syeikh Hamed.

After Low had given the contact details of a person named Mr Sahle for the holiday arrangements and having confirmed the matter with Najib, Wan Shihab said he then made the arrangements for the entourage of about 20 persons including Najib, Rosmah, their children Nor Ashman, Nooryana Najwa and Riza Aziz, Najib’s friend Tan Sri Bustari Yusuf and one of Bustari’s children, officers, maids and household staff.

“As far as I know, no charges for accommodation were imposed throughout the holiday on the RM Elegance yacht as Datuk Seri Najib and his family were holidaying on the invitation of that Kuwait prince,” Wan Shihab said.

This trip involved the entourage’s flight using the government aircraft (of the ACJ319 model) from Kuala Lumpur to London before departing to the Cote D’Azur airport in Nice, France on August 15, 2009, where they were then brought to the yacht where the Kuwait prince and Syeikh Hamed were waiting and with the duo appearing to have a good relationship with Najib, Wan Shihab said.

Initially only touring southern France on the yacht, Wan Shihab said that Najib had told him on either the second or third day that a Saudi prince named Prince Turki on another nearby yacht had invited Najib and his family for tea, adding that he had arranged for the visit via a tender or smaller boat to go on to Prince Turki’s yacht.

Najib’s entourage was greeted by Prince Turki and PetroSaudi International Ltd CEO Tarek Obaid on that yacht, with Najib and his family invited to enter the yacht’s living room while Wan Shihab and other officers waited outside on the deck.

Wan Shihab said he did not know what the purpose of this meeting was and whether Najib and his family had already known Prince Turki and Tarek, adding that he was then subsequently asked by Najib to help take their photographs in the yacht’s living room.

“When I entered the living room, I saw that Jho Low was already among them. This means that Jho Low was on that yacht before we arrived. I did not care much about Jho Low’s presence and took their photos as instructed by Datuk Seri Najib as a memory of that meeting,” he said.

Wan Shihab today said he believed this yacht purportedly owned by Prince Turki — where the photographs were taken — is named “Alfa Nero”, and that the entourage had later returned to the RM Elegance yacht to continue sailing in the waters of southern France.

Wan Shihab said he had on January 7, 2010 sent 20 of the photos taken on the yacht via six emails to Tarek on the latter’s request.

Later when shown a photograph by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib, Wan Shihab confirmed this group photograph which he took onboard Prince Turki’s yacht as having individuals whom he identified as Low, Tarek, and Prince Turki standing between Najib and Low.

Wan Shihab said that Low had in mid-2010 contacted him via the BBM messaging service to say that Najib and his family were invited to have a holiday on a yacht purportedly owned by a Saudi prince in the waters of Greece and Italy, but said he could not remember the name of this prince.

Noting that the yacht belonged to Saudi royalty but unsure if the prince was Prince Turki, Wan Shihab said he was told that the Saudi prince who owned the fleet would not be present but wanted to host Najib and his family for the holiday.

For this trip on the Golden Odyssey yacht, Wan Shihab said Najib and his family and their holiday entourage had taken a flight from Kuala Lumpur on a government-owned aircraft (of the ACJ 319 model) on July 28, 2010 and arrived at Athens, Greece on July 29, 2010, before being brought to the yacht.

Najib, Rosmah, their children Nor Ashman, Nooryana Najwa and Riza Aziz, Wan Shihab, other officers, household staff and a friend of Najib were in this entourage numbering around 17 persons, while Bustari and several of Najib’s acquaintances were already on that yacht as they had arrived one day earlier on their own flights using commercial aircraft.

On August 2, 2010 which was the fifth day of holiday on this second trip, Wan Shihab said Rosmah’s friend known as “Natasha” and frequently seen together with Rosmah on the latter’s trips had contacted him through text message via SMS to ask for the yacht’s location when it reaches Rome as she wanted to bring a few guests to meet the prime minister’s wife.

Considering Natasha to be a close acquaintance of Rosmah, Wan Shihab said that he had provided the details to her and that he had seen her together with Rosmah about a day after the yacht docked in Rome. But he said he did not pay Natasha much heed as he does not interfere much in Rosmah’s matters.

In 2013, Wan Shihab said Low had again contacted him through BBM and again said that Najib and his family had been invited to holiday in southern France on a yacht known as “Topaz” owned by a Sheikh Mansour who was purported to be a prince from Abu Dhabi. Wan Shihab said he was told the prince would not be present on the yacht but wanted to host Najib and his family for the trip.

Having received confirmation from Najib about the trip, Wan Shihab said he had then made the arrangements for the holiday trip, with the entourage for this trip involving around 25 persons.

For this third trip, Najib and his family had on July 4, 2013 left from London where he was having a work visit by flying on government aircraft (of the ACJ 320 model) and reaching Cote D’Azur airport in Nice, France, before being brought directly to the yacht. Wan Shihab, Bustari and one of Bustari’s sons had arrived via commercial flight on the same day.

Wan Shihab, who was also present in this trip again as the officer selected to be on duty, confirmed a long list of persons who had holidayed on the yacht.

The list included Najib himself, Rosmah, Nor Ashman, Nooryana Najwa, Daniyar Kessikbayev (who later became Nooryana Najwa’s husband in 2015), Sarawakian businessman Tan Sri Bustari Yusof (the brother of minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof) and one of Bustari’s sons.

Wan Shihab also confirmed seeing Abu Dhabi firm Aabar Investments PJS director Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny together with professional golf coach Robert Baker on Topaz, and said he had subsequently seen Mohamed Badawy frequently being together with Najib and Bustari on the yacht. He also saw Natasha on the second day, but did not know how and when she had went on the yacht.

Wan Shihab also saw Riza, his Wolf of Wall Street co-producer Joey McFarland, and Low together at the Topaz yacht and said the trio’s conversation revolved around film-making for Hollywood, but said he did not know when Low and McFarland had later left the yacht.

As the officer in charge of ensuring all accommodation bills for Najib’s private trips are paid, Wan Ahmad Shihab said he had checked whether any bills had to be paid for the holiday on the yacht, but was told by Topaz’s manager that no payments were required and assumed this was because Najib’s entourage were guests of Sheikh Mansour.

On the fifth day of this trip which was July 9, 2013, Wan Shihab, Bustari and one of Bustari’s sons had again took commercial flights from France to return to Malaysia, while Najib and his family’s entourage departed the same day to Malaysia using a government aircraft.

Shown by Akram several photographs which he did not take, Wan Shihab identified these to have been taken on the yacht Topaz, identifying Najib, Mohamed Badawy and what appears to be Low in the same group photo.

He also identified Rosmah, Riza, Nor Ashman and individuals appearing to be Low, McFarland, Daniyar in another photograph taken on the Topaz.

Later when asked by Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah about how many times a year a prime minister and his family are entitled to go on vacation, Wan Shihab replied: “I don’t know, but I feel that as long as it’s not on the government’s expenses, when PM takes leave, he normally doesn’t go more than a week or two, maximum 10 days a time, but how many days, I’m not aware of the specifics.”

Najib’s trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.

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