The RM42m was transferred into his accounts without his knowledge or involvement and was not a form of gratification, says lead defence counsel
by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
FORMER Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak took the witness stand at the Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday as the first defence witness to answer charges against him relating to SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds.
Lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the High Court in his opening statement that the defence will prove that the former PM was “not involved in any corrupt arrangements”.
Muhammad Shafee said the defence would also present evidence to establish that, among others, Najib did not misuse his office; did not have an interest in SRC International; was never an agent or director of SRC International; did not misappropriate the funds either directly or indirectly and that the RM42 million in question was not received by Najib as alleged in the money-laundering charges.
“The RM42 million was transferred into his accounts without his knowledge or involvement and was not a form of gratification related to any act of Najib vis-à-vis SRC International,” he said in his 16-page statement before Najib took the witness stand to answer charges relating to the SRC International funds.
On Nov 16, Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ordered Najib 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 the SRC International funds totalling RM42 million after finding that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.
On his first day in the witness stand, Najib testified that Jho Low, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, is deemed influential in the Middle East countries and thus capable of facilitating investments with the nations.
“Jho Low portrayed himself as someone who was very influential in the Middle East countries, which I believed that he would be capable of facilitating investment affairs and partnership between them,” Najib told the High Court yesterday.
He said the concept of Terengganu Investment Agency Bhd (TIA), the state’s sovereign wealth fund prior being taken over by the federal government and turned into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was born out of discussions between Jho Low and the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.
Najib said Jho Low was a close acquaintance to the Terengganu Ruler and his sister, Tengku Datuk Rahimah Sultan Mahmud.
The Pekan MP said Jho Low was an advisor to Sultan Mizan, the chairman of TIA’s board of advisors.
As for the formation of 1MDB, Najib said the state government and Terengganu Menteri Besar Inc could not agree on the terms involving the issued Islamic medium term notes, which led to the acquisition of TIA by the federal government that was approved by the Cabinet on Aug 8, 2009.
“The decision was ‘reluctantly made’ to protect the state government and the then Agong from embarrassment and to avoid negative impacts to Malaysia’s bond market globally,” he said.
Najib said SRC International, a unit of 1MDB, was incorporated on Jan 7, 2011, as proposed by 1MDB, as an initiative to support the country’s agenda to ensure energy security and reduce reliance on oil and gas, and coal. Najib also denied any involvement in the establishment of SRC International.
He said the matter was under the scope of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).
The EPU approved a RM20 million launching grant for SRC International as opposed to a RM3 billion grant that was applied by the company.
Later on, the company obtained a total of RM4 billion loans from the Retirement Fund Inc, one of the biggest credit facilities the fund had ever approved.
The trial will run from Dec 9 to Dec 19 (except for Friday).
Najib was not acquitted on all the seven charges related to the embezzlement of SRC International’s RM42 million funds.
He faces a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and fine for the crimes, upon conviction.