‘The Minister of Finance is MoF Inc’

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on July 10, 2019.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The court was told yesterday the Minister of Finance is the Minister of Finance Inc (MoF Inc), based on the Ministry of Finance (Incorporation) Act 1975 (Act 375), read by the 44th prosecution witness, former treasury deputy secretary-general Datuk Mat Noor Nawi.

During re-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim, Mat Noor, 64, was asked to read out a Federal Gazette as well as Act 375, amid a difference in interpretation by the defence.

“Datuk, you have read through the gazette. There has been a different interpretation by the lawyers. From what you have read, who makes the decision on the implementation of documents and administration for Minister of Finance Inc?” asked the DPP.

“The Minister of Finance,” the witness responded.

He was then asked to read Section 3 of Act 375, saying: “The minister for the time being, charged with responsibility for finance, shall be a body corporate under the name of Minister of Finance Inc.”

“So, that means the minister of finance is the corporation,” said the DPP.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak was prime minister from 2009 to 2018 and finance minister from 2008 to 2018.

During cross-examination, lawyer Harvinderjit Singh brought up the gazette, saying two of four MoF Inc senior officers — the treasury secretary-general, deputy secretary-general, division secretary or deputy division secretary — can sign off on decisions concerning MoF Inc.

The lawyer added that the minister of finance II Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah in 2011 and 2012, was in charge of MoF Inc. However, the witness said he did not fully agree with the lawyer.

Mat Noor, during cross-examination, also revealed he had received a letter signed by Najib concerning his appointment as adviser at SRC International Sdn Bhd.

He mentioned this to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) when he recorded his statement, he said, and also told Suhaimi about the letter.

During re-examination, Suhaimi asked if he could retrieve the letter, but he said the letter was lost.

“I kept the letter with me before, but I lost it over the years as I left [the] MoF for Exim Bank (Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Bhd). It was probably lost during the moving process,” he said.

“Were you ever asked to find the letter?” the DPP asked.

“Yes, I was asked to. I even went back to my old office to find it but it was nowhere to be found,” said the witness.

Mat Noor explained that the letter did not specifically outline his role at SRC, although he believes as adviser meant he had to advise the chief executive officer and managing director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.

He said he had called Nik Faisal to his office twice to explain future plans for SRC.

Najib is facing multiple counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power, involving RM42 million of SRC funds. He is alleged to have received RM27 million and RM5 million on Dec 26, 2014, and another RM10 million on Feb 10, 2015. His trial resumes today.