KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took the witness stand at the High Court here today as the first defence witness to answer charges against him relating to SRC International Berhad (SRC) funds.
Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had, on Nov 11, ordered Najib, 66, to enter his defence on three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), three charges of money laundering and one count of abuse of position in relation to SRC funds totalling RM42 million after finding that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.
The defence opened its case today with Najib reading out his 243-page witness statement, touching among others on the appointment of directors of sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Terengganu Investment Authority, Khazanah, Petronas, PNB, TNB, Telekom and others.
Najib, who was also finance minister when he was the prime minister, also spoke at length about the setting up of 1MDB, the role fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, played in the setting up of TIA which later morphed into 1MDB, and the idea behind the setting up of SRC.
He described Jho Low as a very influential figure with vast connections with the Terengganu royal family and in the Middle East.
The Pekan MP said this was the reason why he retained Jho Low as an advisor of 1MDB after the federal government took over TIA in 2009 and changed its name to 1MDB, with its shares held by Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc).
He also said that he saw it fit for 1MDB to have an advisory board along the model of its predecessor (TIA) (Najib was the chairman of the 1MDB advisory board).
During the examination-in-chief by his lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Najib told the court that as the prime minister (then), he had absolute powers on the appointment of directors of government-linked companies.
Justice Mohd Nazlan is presiding over the hearing.
Najib, who served as the sixth prime minister from 2009 to 2018, is the first former head of government of Malaysia to find himself in the dock of a court.
He is accused of committing the offences between Aug 17, 2011 and March 2, 2015.
The court fixed Dec 3 and 4, Dec 9 to 12, and Dec 16 to 19 for Najib to enter his defence.
The prosecution team is led by Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas. The team also comprises ad-hoc Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram while Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee leads a group of defence counsel.
On Oct 22 and 23, the court heard lengthy submissions from the prosecution and defence teams. The prosecution had, on Aug 27, closed its case after 58 days of trial with 57 witnesses called to testify.
During the trial, the prosecution tendered more than 750 exhibits, including bank documents relating to Najib’s bank accounts, cash transactions, minutes of meetings and Blackberry Messenger chats over Najib’s transactions.
Najib was first brought to the Sessions Court here on July 4, 2018, where he was charged with three counts of CBT and one count of abuse of position.
On Aug 8, 2018, he was brought to the Sessions Court again and charged with three counts of money laundering, involving the same money. The cases were later transferred to the High Court with the charges consolidated in one trial.
With regard to the CBT charges, Najib, as a public servant and agent, namely Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Malaysia, and Advisor Emeritus of SRC International Sdn Bhd (SRC), allegedly misappropriated RM27 million and RM5 million, respectively, of RM4 billion belonging to SRC.
He was charged with committing the two offences at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, Ambank Group Building, No 55, Jalan Raja Chulan here, between Dec 24, 2014, and Dec 29, 2014.
On the third count, Najib allegedly misappropriated RM10 million of RM4 billion belonging to SRC at the same place between Feb 10, 2015, and March 2, 2015.
The three charges are framed under Section 409 of the Penal Code which provides imprisonment for up to 20 years, with whipping and liable to be fined upon conviction.
On the charge of abusing his position, Najib, as the prime minister and minister of finance, allegedly used his position to commit bribery involving RM42 million through his participation or involvement in the decision to provide government guarantees for loans from the Retirement Fund Incorporated to SRC International amounting to RM4 billion.
He was charged with committing the offence at the Prime Minister’s Office, Precinct 1, Putrajaya, Federal Territory of Putrajaya, between Aug 17, 2011, and Feb 8, 2012.
The charge, under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 and punishable under Section 24 of the same Act, provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount or value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
On the three money-laundering charges, Najib is alleged to have received RM27 million, RM5 million and RM10 million, respectively, of proceeds from unlawful activities, via Real-Time Electronic Transfer of Funds and Securities (Rentas) into his two AmIslamic Bank Berhad accounts.
The offences were allegedly committed at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, AmBank Group Building, No. 55, Jalan Raja Chulan here, between Dec 26, 2014, and Feb 10, 2015,.
The charges were framed under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.
If convicted, the ex-premier faces up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the illicit proceeds or RM5 million, whichever is higher, on each count.