SRC appeal: Najib himself never truly believed funds used were from Arab donations, prosecution asserts

(Photo by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf/The Edge)

(Photo by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf/The Edge)

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PUTRAJAYA (April 21): Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s continuous failure to verify the source of the billions of ringgit transferred into his personal accounts reflected how the former prime minister never truly believed that the source of the funds was actually an Arab donation, the prosecution argued today. 

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram pointed out that Najib did not explain why it never crossed his mind to find out how his accounts continued to have sufficient funds for his "limitless expense" despite so-called Arab donations drying up.

Instead, Najib only relied on the words of purported master conspirator Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who claimed that they were donations from Saudi ruler King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud.

"The evidence adduced clearly shows that the appellant (Najib) could not have believed that the money being the subject matter of the charges was Arab donations. In the absence of any evidence of a further request for additional funding by the appellant to the King in 2014, the circumstances clearly show that the appellant knew that the RM42 million was from SRC International Sdn Bhd and also other sources of Jho Low known to the appellant," the prosecutor said. 

Sithambaram was specifically referring to the fourth tranche of the alleged Arab donation that was remitted to Najib's AmBank accounts in 2014 after the first three tranches were purportedly transferred in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively.

Even with the void of information on the source, the former premier chose to keep the funds regardless, said the prosecutor. Sithambaram added that the opening of Najib's AmBank accounts may have been part of the deliberate arrangement with Jho Low to siphon money from SRC.

“The prosecution submits that this could also mean that the appellant (Najib) premeditated with Jho Low to receive funds other than the alleged Arab donation into the appellant’s AmBank accounts.

“Opening the AmBank accounts cannot corroborate that the funds in the appellant’s bank accounts are from so-called Arab donations.

“The AmBank accounts could receive any funds, including SRC funds,” said Sithambaram.

Defence witness in Putrajaya during purported meeting with Arab royalty over donation

The prosecutor went on to discredit the Arab donation claim by scrutinising the authenticity of the evidence the defence brought forward of the purported meeting with the Arab counterparts, where three members of the meeting stated that financial donations were promised by the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Sithambaram stated that the meeting was corroborated by evidence from members of the meeting, including former Malaysian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Datuk Professor Syed Omar Al-Saggaf, former minister in the Prime Minister's Department Major General Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Bahrom and Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, another former minister.

The prosecution called these claims a “mere afterthought” due to the discrepancies between Najib’s testimony and the testimonies of the other members of the meeting, where only the former premier did not mention the purported promise of financial donations.

“The three witnesses’ evidence of this purported meeting where the offer of financial support was purportedly made could not have taken place as the appellant himself did not testify the same.

“This was but an afterthought evidence to bolster the appellant’s defence.

“There is no explanation for this glaring omission from the appellant’s evidence, which is the crux of the defence, that his funds were all Arab donations,” Sithambaram put forward.

The prosecutor continued by highlighting that Jamil Khir, one of the purported members who corroborated the existence of the meeting and Saudi's promised financial donation, was attending an event in Putrajaya and could therefore not be in Saudi Arabia for the meeting.

“This casts doubt on the credibility of DW5 (defence witness 5 Jamil Khir) and raises serious questions as to whether he was a truthful and reliable witness in the court when he testified that he was in Saudi Arabia with the appellant (Najib) on the same date of Jan 11, 2010.

“This perhaps explains the contradiction as to when the King is alleged to have purportedly offered the financial donation,” Sithambaram added.

Arab royals standing by to fund Najib is 'far-fetched'

Further, Sithambaram postulated that the very timing of the "Arab donation" which arrived in time to regularise Najib's accounts was too convenient and that the Arab royalty being “on standby” to fund Najib exactly when he needed funds is "far-fetched". 

Therefore, he inferred that it was Jho Low who "masqueraded" as the Arab donor and that Najib in fact knew the source of the funds including the RM42 million paid into his accounts. 

“The appellant (Najib) as the PM (prime minister) and the FM (finance minister) would appreciate the timing of the arrival of the funds and yet refused to find out the balance in his accounts.

“The appellant wants this honourable court to believe that he never knew the balance in his accounts for five years from 2011 to 2015.

“It is absurd, to say the least,” Sithambaram said.

He followed by noting that the former premier's decision to return the bulk of the unutilised Arab donation after the 13th general election (GE13) in 2013 was peculiar.

“The appellant’s return of the funds was to avoid queries why the appellant had such large sums of money and also entail scrutiny as to the source of the funds,” said Sithambaram.

Sithambaram concurred with High Court Judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali in his grounds of judgement for the SRC trial, where he called the entire narrative of the Arab donation a weak fabrication and self-serving evidence.

The appeal hearing continues.

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