Najib’s SRC trial: Nik Faisal’s role in the spotlight again

by MARK RAO / pic by ARIF KARTONO

NIK FAISAL Ariff Kamil’s influence over SRC International Sdn Bhd remained intact despite ceasing as the company’s CEO and MD in 2014, according to a key witness in former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s ongoing graft trial.

Former SRC International director Datuk Suboh Md Yasin testified that Nik Faisal was emboldened by a “higher-up” authority and acted as the sole link between the company’s directors and Najib.

Defence counsel Harvinderjit Singh argued that the influence exerted by Nik Faisal over the company ceased when the latter vacated his position as CEO, and was replaced by Datuk Mohammed Azhar Osman Khairuddin on Sept 1, 2014.

“The emboldenness of Nik Faisal, the perception that he gave that he was having all these communications with the man on top, all that came to a crushing end by September 2014?” Harvinderjit asked Suboh during cross-examination yesterday.

“Not necessarily so, because he was there, as I said, as an ED,” Suboh replied.

When pressed further, the witness added: “He is no longer the CEO but he is still an ED, meaning to say there is still some element.”

Suboh later clarified that Nik Faisal was retained as an ED in the company to bring back the company’s funds held overseas to be invested as originally intended.

By now, the defence is arguing that Nik Faisal misrepresented both the company’s directors and Najib when undertaking SRC International-related transactions, the majority of which have come under scrutiny since the trial first commenced in April.

Harvinderjit showed Suboh a document dated Sept 3, 2014 where the board agreed to appoint Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd as the corporate social responsibility partner to SRC International under the guidance of Nik Faisal.

This was in spite of Nik Faisal having ceased to be the company’s CEO and MD two days before.

When questioned, Suboh said there was “prior action” taken by Nik Faisal which the board relied on its decision.

Ihsan Perdana and Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd, an SRC International subsidiary, are the two companies allegedly used by Najib to launder RM42 million in funds to his personal banking accounts.

The accused was advisor emeritus to SRC International, a former 1Malaysia Development Bhd unit, following a special resolution passed in April 2012 to appoint the PM to an advisory position in the company.

Harvinderjit then contested Suboh’s claim that the SRC board was “reduced to nothing” and could be “brushed aside” because Nik Faisal acted with a “mountain” behind him.

He pointed to the board’s decision to take action against the then CEO for misrepresenting that the company’s 2013 annual accounts were audited.

“The board noted that Nik Faisal will be responsible for inadvertently misleading the board on the submission of audited financial statements for 2013 and agreed to the board to exercise judgement to protect the interest of the company. Judgement on whom?” Harvinderjit asked.

“The person responsible, Nik Faisal,” Suboh replied.

“The man who allegedly had a mountain behind him?”

“Yes.”

Earlier this week, Suboh told the court that his signatures may have been forged by the management to expedite the movement of millions of ringgit in funds.

He also testified that he signed instruction letters involving three transactions amounting to RM50 million in funds from SRC International to Gandingan Mentari and Ihsan Perdana between Dec 24, 2014, and Feb 6, 2015.

Speaking to the press after court adjourned yesterday, lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Suboh could be the “key witness” in proving the innocence of his client due to the discrepancies both in his statement and his signatures, which may have been forged.