A week into Najib’s appeal — ‘no one knows’, ‘only Jho Low can explain’

The defence counsel also claims the RM4b transferred out of SRC International was an ‘act of theft’ as the board had not approved it

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

DATUK Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s (picture) defence, in its appeal to reverse the conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of RM42 million belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, has been largely about lack of knowledge and claiming fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low has the answers.

In the appeal hearing last week, the defence told the court that it was unknown who approved the transfer of RM4 billion overseas, the sum that was loaned by the Retirement Fund Inc to SRC International.

Defence counsel Harvinderjit Singh said the fund transfer did not go through the SRC International board and that it was an “act of theft”.

Justice Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera questioned who could approve the transfer of such a large amount from the company to out of the country if the board did not know about it.

Vazeer Alam: You’ve not answered my question. The RM4 billion was evidently sent out for, ostensibly, some investment. If the board of directors didn’t know about it, then who made the decision?

Harvinderjit: We don’t know. We must ask who even approved those payments.

Vazeer Alam: That is what I’m asking. Was that decision made at a different level?

The defence counsel said there was no evidence to say the decision to make the transaction was made at a different level.

Harvinderjit: It was a theft. It couldn’t be anyone who was entrusted with the property because the (board of) directors didn’t know about it.

Harvinderjit: Without the directors approving the RM4 billion to go out…it was not a misappropriation. It was a theft. When asked why there was no police report made at the time, Harvinderjit said only former SRC International chairman Tan Sri Ismee Ismail or director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin could answer that question.

In a separate session, Justice Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil asked Harvinderjit how a person like Jho Low, who without any official position at SRC International, was able to facilitate fund transfers into Najib’s account.

Abdul Karim: The thrust of your defence is that Jho Low manipulated everything. How is it possible for someone, who was not at all connected to SRC, commandeers everything?

Harvinderjit: That is a good question…but only Jho Low can answer that.

The lawyer said Jho Low was involved in the monetary transfers along with other individuals including SRC International MD Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil; SRC director Terence Geh; Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia CEO Ung Su Ling; and account relationship manager at AmBank Group Bhd Joanna Yu Ging Ping.

Harvinderjit contended that these people were involved in the transactions, while Najib had no knowledge about it.

Last week, at some point, it appeared that the defence kept repeating the same arguments that had caused the court to remind them to move on to other issues.

The defence was also asked to explain why they viewed High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had erred in his conviction against Najib.

“You all (Najib’s team) are overlapping on the same thing for the past three days. We (the bench of three judges) are still waiting for your submission on the charges…how the trial judge erred, issues of law and all that. You have not touched on this at all,” Abdul Karim said.

He said Harvinderjit made submissions on matters that had been brought by lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhamad Shafee Abdullah before, thus asking the lawyer to focus on other points.

However, Harvinderjit was interjected again by Abdul Karim when he started making submissions on Najib’s criminal breach of trust (CBT) issue, saying the lawyer was repeating the same points.

“You are repeating again. I say again, you must make us clear (on how the trial judge erred)…,” Abdul Karim said.

Najib was found guilty of all the seven charges — one count of abuse of position, three counts of CBT and three counts of money laundering — relating to the misappropriation of RM42 million belonging to SRC International, a former unit of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The RM42 million funds were channelled into Najib’s bank accounts through Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd and Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd, purportedly SRC International’s corporate social responsibility partner.

Najib was sentenced to 12 years of jail and fined RM210 million for abuse of power involving RM42 million of funds misappropriated from SRC International.

Mohd Nazlan also sentenced Najib to 10 years of jail each for three CBT offences and 10 years of jail each for three money-laundering offences committed in the fund’s embezzlement.