Arab donations, Jho Low connection became focus of Najib’s testimony last week

Najib says he channelled the donations to CSR initiatives for political, social and charitable purposes, in tandem with the late King Abdullah’s vision

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

FORMER Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak admitted that monies from the Arab donations were spent towards politics for corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities under Umno or Barisan Nasional (BN).

Najib, who is testifying in his defence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial, told the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court that he channelled the donations from Saudi Arabia to CSR initiatives for political, social and charitable purposes, in tandem with the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s vision.

Defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed: Why Datuk Seri said expenditure towards politics was for CSR purposes?

Najib: When a contribution made to Umno and other BN’s component parties, apart from operational expenditure, the fund will also be used in community and social projects under Umno or BN. Besides, the contribution is to ensure the continuity of the country’s political stability. This is in line with King Abdullah’s vision, which he hoped that Malaysia will stay in peace and harmony in implementing wasatiyyah, or moderation, one of the principles in Islam.

In his testimony made last week, the former Umno president and BN chairman said a bank account, which ended with 694, was opened in 2010 in anticipation of receiving the donation.

The Pekan MP said Low Taek Jho, or known as Jho Low, told him that the donation could be between US$100 million (RM416 million) and US$200 million.

Najib said Low was the one who arranged his meetings with King Abdullah in Riyadh and Jeddah in 2010, which led to the understanding of a donation that was intended as a show of support from the Saudi royal to Malaysia in maintaining stability and upholding Islam.

He further said Low was the person who managed the incoming donations, while former SRC International CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil was appointed as an authorised person for the 694 account and supposed to liaise with the former PM’s principal private secretary Datuk Seri Azlin Alias.

Najib said he was shown by Azlin a letter dated Feb 1, 2011, which was believed to be from a legitimate representative of King Abdullah, stating about the US$100 million as gift and can be utilised according to his discretion.

He created history by becoming the first former PM to take the witness stand to defend himself against criminal charges.

The defendant, who was not acquitted from all the charges related to the embezzlement of SRC International’s RM42 million funds, chose to testify under oath and be cross-examined by the prosecutors to prove his case.

Lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s opening defence statement highlighted that his team will prove that Najib was “not involved in any corrupt arrangements”.

On his first day in the witness stand, Najib testified that Low is deemed influential in the Middle East countries thus capable of facilitating investments with the nations.

He said the concept of Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd (TIA), the state’s sovereign wealth fund prior to being “reluctantly” taken over by the federal government and turned into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was borne out of discussions between Low and the 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

Najib said Low was a close acquaintance to the Terengganu ruler and his sister, Tengku Datuk Rahimah Sultan Mahmud.

He further said Low was an advisor to Sultan Mizan, the chairman of TIA’s board of advisors.

According to Malaysia’s sixth PM, SRC International — a unit of 1MDB — was incorporated on Jan 7, 2011, as an initiative to support the country’s agenda to ensure energy security and reduce reliance on oil and gas, and coal.

He denied any involvement in the establishment of SRC International and as the matter was under the scope of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).

Meanwhile, on his second day of testifying, Najib who was a finance minister (FM), berated former second FM Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah who testified earlier that he was treated like an “office boy”.

“The claim made by Ahmad Husni that he was treated like an ‘office boy’ was a comedy, as his signature as the second FM showed otherwise.

“Ahmad Husni also attended the Cabinet meeting on Feb 8, 2012, where the second government guarantee was approved and no issue was raised.

“It really did not make any sense when the second FM would stoop so low to have called himself an ‘office boy’, who allegedly only followed instructions when he failed to carry out his expected responsibilities in his position if he believed that SRC International was in need of more monitoring at the time,” Najib said at the KL High Court last week.

Najib said Ahmad Husni’s previous testimony — that he was not allowed to bring a delegation to Switzerland after funds belonging to SRC International were frozen by the local authorities — was out of context.

He said there was no need for the second FM to go to Switzerland as efforts had already been taken by SRC International to resolve the matter.

“I believe Ahmad Husni’s testimony was intended to paint me in a bad light and pay revenge due to his dissatisfaction with me.

“I believe he was not satisfied when I transferred him from the Finance Ministry to the EPU because he resigned not long after that in 2016, and used the witness box as an avenue to express his discontentment openly,” Najib added.

Najib said other circumstances have built up the grudges and led to the misunderstanding between the two, which he did not intend to tell the court.

The trial continues today until next week.

The former PM faces a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and fine for the crimes, if convicted.