AG Thomas opens the 1st trial in Malaysian courts against a former PM
By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By BERNAMA
The date April 3, 2019, will certainly go down in history as the day Malaysia and the entire world witnessed the beginning of the prosecution of the country’s former prime minister (PM), which could also be easily dubbed as the “trial of the century”.
Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak is accused of committing seven offences of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and power abuse involving RM42 million allegedly misappropriated from SRC International Sdn Bhd — a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), a government investment company.
Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas is leading the 12-member prosecution team against Najib, who is represented by 11 defence counsels, headed by Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
Some 63 witnesses have been prepared to take the witness stand and more than 3,000 pages of related documents have been submitted to the defence.
During the last 18 days of the trial, the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court became an intense battleground among the toughest lawyers in the country fighting for their case before Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
The proceedings will go on for the next two months before another trial for Najib, which involves 1MDB’s RM2.28 billion fund, commences on Aug 19.
Here are some of the memorable quotes from the SRC trial thus far.
Thomas’ first opening line: “May it please Your Lordship, it is my duty and privilege to open the first trial in our courts against a former PM, who for nearly a decade, occupied the most powerful office in the land and wielded near-absolute power, which carries with it enormous responsibility, which my office intends to discharge in order to establish that the accused is guilty of seven charges that he is facing before Your Lordship.”
Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk V Sithambaram on the defence’s request for a witness, manager at Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Ahmad Farhan Sharifuddin, to produce communications involving Jho Low: “They must satisfy admissibility and necessity. What they are doing is a fishing expedition. We need proper procedure through official applications.”
Muhammad Shafee: “The documents may not be relevant to the prosecution, but it may or may not be relevant from the defence angle. We can determine the relevancy of the documents once we inspect them.”
Thomas, when the defence disputed the prosecution’s re-examination methods on witness Azizul Adzani Abdul Ghafar, a manager at BNM: “We do not need the defence lecturing us. We do not need the defence’s lawyer to suggest methods of re-examination. The style of examination differs for each lawyer. I have been doing trials for 42 years.”
Padang Serai Umno division chief Datuk Asmadi Abu Talib, when asked why the RM50,000 received from Najib was not reflected in the division’s official account: “If it involves Umno (account), it has to go through the AGM and get assessed by the auditors.”
Johor Baru Umno division secretary Abu Talib Alias, when identifying Najib in court (in the accused dock): “There he is. Malu apa, bossku.”
Muhammad Shafee asked Centre For Strategic Engagement Sdn Bhd co-founder and director Rita Sim Sai Hoon on Najib’s Chinese media monitoring: “Do you agree with me that it is important for any political parties, like Barisan Nasional (BN), to understand Chinese issues if they want to address Chinese dissatisfaction with the government?
Sim: “The Chinese community should be the concern of all political parties, not just BN. The government of the day must derive policies (to address the needs) of the Chinese community, as the community is part of Malaysia.”
Bank Manager Tells All on Najib’s Multimillion Fund Transactions
Muhammad Shafee asked for a break when AmBank Group Raja Chulan branch manager R Uma Devi read out her written statement comprising 42 pages and 195 paragraphs: “I do not know about the witness, but I am really tired and bored.”
Sithambaram on Najib’s accounts: “Did the account holder notify any errors, discrepancies, irregularities, unauthorised withdrawals, debits, fraudulent transactions or entries made with a lack of mandates in any of the statements relating to the three accounts?”
Uma: “To my knowledge and records that I have, no.”
Defence counsel Harvinderjit Singh asked Uma on an account holder’s liabilities: “If an account holder has never seen the bank statement and it was kept away from him, would you agree that the account holder would not be liable for his account?”
Uma, “The account holder can be liable for all transactions.”
Uma, when asked about the differences in the size of the signatures between the soft and hard copies of instruction letters: “I cannot comment. For a banker, they all looked the same.”
Harvinderjit asked Uma about an instruction letter purportedly written by Najib to instruct the return of the “donation” to Prince Faisal Al Turki: “On the basis of the letter, was it clear that the bank knew the amount of money credited was a donation?”
Uma, on Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd’s account being categorised as “high risk”: “A high-risk account handles a lot of cash, for instance. The account will be monitored by the compliance department.”
DPP Datuk Ishak Mohd Yusoff asked former Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) assistant VP Amirul Imran Ahmat on SRC’s RM3.95 billion loan request: “Is it usual for KWAP to receive a loan application letter in two pages?”
Amirul Imran: “There is, but it would be unusual.”
Former director (energy) of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) Datuk Dr Kamariah Noruddin, on 1MDB’s RM3 billion grant request to establish SRC: “I found it difficult to process the grant application as it was out of the ordinary. It was an application by 1MDB to the finance minister and then forwarded to EPU.”
Amirul Imran said he was under pressure to process the loans: “I was instructed by the management to expedite the application. There were a few meetings within a short period of time.”
Harvinderjit asked Amirul Imran on a RM2 billion loan request by SRC: “Why did you propose a higher interest rate?”
Amirul Imran: “We were hoping to push them out (from the loan application).”
Harvinderjit: “You hope they will say no?”
Amirul Imran: “Yes.”
Harvinderjit asked Amirul Imran on the proposed RM2 billion investment by KWAP via a loan to SRC: “Can I say that these people, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, Terence Geh and Zahid Taib always had the air of confidence that this investment will succeed?”
Amirul Imran, “No, they always chose not to talk about it directly when met face-to-face.”
Amirul Imran, on the promised government guarantee for SRC’s loan request: “It was the only selling point of the investment and set to mitigate any risk to payments of the loan.”
KWAP’s legal and secretarial department VP Azlida Mazni Arshad on the RM2 billion request: “The investment panel had questioned the capability and credibility of SRC’s management team to venture into the natural resources industry that requires high skills.”
Muhammad Shafee, on reporting errors by the media over Najib’s purported selfie in court: “From where he (the reporter) was sitting, he seemed to be able to conclude that Najib was taking a selfie and able to say that Najib looked sad from behind. The reporting is actual nonsense, not even newsworthy, and this is not the first time he is doing this. If they (the media) want to be treated as the fourth estate, they should not act like the people from estates.”
Muhammad Shafee stressed that Najib should be alerted over dubious transactions: “Would you agree if AmBank had done their job and submitted a suspicious transaction report (STR) to BNM, the account holder would have been alerted to protect himself?”
Ahmad Farhan: “There is a specific provision under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 that prevents tipping off. Reporting institutions only submit STR and are not allowed to disclose (it) to the person. Your question on whether Najib should be alerted, I would have to disagree because that was tantamount to tipping off.”
Harvinderjit took over the cross-examination and asked on the same issue: “Come on sir, you are from the central bank. You are also a competent authority. It is quite simple. There is a suspicious transaction and there is an investigation of the suspicious transaction. Are you trying to tell this court that the account holder will not be notified?”
Ahmad Farhan: “I have no idea, really, because…” (Harvinderjit interrupted and refused to accept the answer).
Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd MD Datuk Dr Shamsul Anwar Sulaiman, on the RM42 million transferred into Najib’s accounts: “I had to follow directives from Ung Su Ling (Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia CEO) and Dennis See Thuan Buan (the foundation’s project director) because they were funders of Ihsan Perdana.
“As far as I could remember, Ung and See ordered me to transfer the funds to AmPrivate Banking-1MY and AmPrivate Banking-MY accounts even though I did not know who the owner of the funds was. I was only informed by Ung that monies were credited into Ihsan Perdana’s account.
“I did ask Ung many times via telephone and face-to-face. But, she did not tell me about the source of the funds. I also enquired See on the matter, but he told me that I do not need to know about the account holder of AmPrivate Banking-1MY and AmPrivate Banking-MY.”