Najib’s SRC trial: Secret 736 bank account opened months before SRC came under 1MDB or directors were appointed

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 8, 2019 - July 14, 2019.

Suboh said Nik Faisal was emboldened by his position. Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf/The Edge

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THE controversial — and so-called secret — 736 bank account of SRC International Sdn Bhd was opened on Jan 7, 2011 — some eight months before the company was acquired by 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in August, at which point directors were appointed to the SRC board, star prosecution witness Datuk Suboh Md Yassin told the Kuala Lumpur High Court last week.

As with the 39th prosecution witness and former SRC chairman Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, Suboh claimed that he did not have knowledge of the bank account, into which Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) (KWAP) transferred the first RM2 billion loan on Aug 29, only for RM1.8 billion to be channelled to overseas banks the very next day “to get better returns”.

The signatories to the bank account were the company’s former chief executive and managing director, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, and former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

Along with Nik Faisal, Suboh was one of the signatories to SRC’s other account with AmBank — a 650 account sanctioned by the board at meetings in August and November 2011. Both men were also account signatories for Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of SRC.

Asked by defence counsel Harvinderjit Singh, Suboh said he remembered signing a drawdown note for the second RM2 billion KWAP loan that had been deposited in the 650 account on March 28, 2012, and withdrawn two days later.

He admitted that the drawdown note was not on a SRC letterhead, but said he believed he signed it nonetheless. “I identified the [drawdown] note from my signature. I think I signed [it] ... looks like I signed and I merely followed Nik Faisal’s instructions and not on the board’s directives.”

The 42nd prosecution witness indicated that while he agreed that his signatures on fund transfers to and withdrawals from the 650 account could have been forged, copied or abused by Nik Faisal, he believed the former CEO and managing director did so as he was confident of the backing of someone influential.

Suboh said this during cross-examination as the defence team of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is facing seven criminal charges relating to the misappropriation of RM42 million of SRC’s funds, tried to portray Nik Faisal — now on the run — as acting alone in duping or defrauding the board of directors in the transfer of SRC funds.

“He (Nik Faisal) was emboldened by his position. He was a powerful person and No 2 ... he had somebody behind him. As the Chinese proverb goes, the mountain is behind him,” he said, using a Chinese idiom to illustrate his point.

While Suboh did not name the person, he said the addition of Article 117 to SRC’s memorandum and articles of association had altered the power structure in the company after Najib was appointed adviser emeritus of the firm under the new clause.


Sept 13 board meeting a farce

On the first RM2 billion KWAP loan, the defence suggested that the Sept 13, 2011, SRC board meeting was likely a farce as Suboh agreed that the sum was already not in SRC’s 736 account when the board approved the transfer of RM1.8 billion to a bank in Switzerland and another in Hong Kong.

At the meeting, the board resolved to adopt a proposal by Nik Faisal based on his meeting with Najib on Sept 7, where both decided that RM1.8 billion of the loan be transferred to Falcon Private Bank in Switzerland and Julius Baer bank in Hong Kong for better returns.

Suboh said after the Sept 13, 2011, meeting, he did not know whether the money was actually transferred out.

The purported Sept 7 meeting has been disputed by the defence, which claimed that it did not take place and that the minutes of that meeting had been forged.

However, in his earlier testimony, Ismee had produced the purported minutes of the Sept 7 meeting, which he claimed to have received from Nik Faisal.

The defence attempted to raise doubts as to the veracity of the Sept 7 minutes with Suboh, but Suboh reiterated what was stated in that four-eyed meeting between Nik Faisal and Najib was also in SRC’s Sept 13 minutes.


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