Parliament, cabinet need not know of private Saudi donation, says Anifah.
Former foreign minister Anifah Aman defended his decision to not inform Parliament or the cabinet of the alleged Saudi donation to then-prime minister Najib Razak, saying it was a private matter, the high court heard today.
During cross-examination at the SRC International trial, Anifah verbally sparred with ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram, who accused the sixth defence witness of concocting the alleged donation to protect Najib.
Anifah previously testified that he was at a meeting in January 2010 between Najib and the late Saudi ruler King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud. The 66-year-old witness said he was made to understand that King Abdullah offered a donation to assist Najib to win the 2013 election.
Also present at the meeting were then Malaysian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Syed Omar Al-Saggaf and Islamic affairs minister Jamil Khir Baharom.
Sithambaram: Can I say that you agree with Datuk Seri Najib’s statement that it (alleged donation) was kept in a private account to keep it a secret from the public?
Anifah: I never said that. No.
Sithambaram: Was this matter of foreign donation discussed in cabinet?
Sithambaram: You did not mention it to the cabinet members? Why?
Anifah: It was a personal donation from the king to Datuk Seri Najib.
Sithambaram: I like this, personal donation. Sorry sir, I’m a thinking person, but if Datuk Seri Najib, as the Malaysian prime minister, calls on the king of Saudi Arabia, with some members of the cabinet, how can it be a personal matter? He was there in his capacity as prime minister, sir. Otherwise, he would not get five cents.
Anifah: Well, that’s the difference between lawyers and ministers. I can’t make you understand. I can’t make you enlightened.
Sithambaram: Understand or not, that’s for the court to determine. You are not answering the question. If the prime minister leads a delegation, with the ambassador to call on the king, then it is an official meeting. Then there is no question that what is given no longer remains a private matter because now it involves the country. Do you agree?
Anifah: I disagree.
Sithambaram: So, you are saying the PM can accept donations in his private capacity.
Anifah: It is different here. He was given (the donation) in his personal capacity.
Sithambam: I am saying it cannot be private because it was given to the prime minister. It is a matter of public concern. Do you agree?
Anifah: I disagree.
Sithambaram: That’s fine, Sir.
Anifah: You’re not happy.
Sithambaram: It’s not about happiness. It’s about the truth here. This was not discussed in Parliament?
Anifah: It was not discussed, but not for the reason you think…
Sithambaram then questioned Anifah on his witness statement, in which the former Umno politician said King Abdullah did not want the donation to be “vaguely disbursed”.
Sithambaram: What does it mean vaguely disbursed? You have to explain to the public. Take me as a member of the public. As an ignorant fool, I’m asking you, what does that mean?
Anifah: You have to ask King Abdullah.
Sithambaram then questioned Anifah on his statement that King Abdullah allegedly did not want the donation to be placed in a political entity as it “may pose problems in the disbursement”, to which Anifah again told the lawyer to “refer to king”. King Abdullah died in 2015.
Sithambaram then posed a question to Anifah whether it was proper for Najib to purchase a Chanel watch for his wife, which evidence tendered in court has shown.
The question caught Anifah off-guard, to which he said he was “shocked” at the question and asked for it to be repeated a second time, to which Sithambaram obliged.
Sithambaram: If buying a Chanel watch for half a million for Datuk Seri’s (Najib) wife, would that be proper usage?
Anifah: Of course not.
Anifah disagreed with the lawyer’s suggestion that all evidence relating to the financial donation by King Abdullah was wholly untrue.
Sithambaram: I am putting it to you that all the evidence relating to the financial donation of King Abdullah is wholly untrue.
Statement: Did you, based on the witness statement, know the amount of donation that was released by King Abdullah?
Anifah: I do not know.
Sithambaram: Did you know at that stage where was the source of funds that was to come into Datuk Seri’s (Najib) accounts?
Anifah: I do not know.
Anifah also said he had no knowledge of the source of the donations and when they were sent to Najib’s private account.
Sithambaram: You agree sir, if the funds were put in the public or a political party or the government, it would have been more transparent.
Anifah: My understanding is that it was the request of the king (for the donation) to be put in the private account of Datuk Seri Najib.
Sithambaram: You are not answering my question.
Anifah: My Lord…(Anifah turns to address the judge) from my understanding (of what the king meant), it was a donation fund to be personally operated by Najib. (Publicising the donation) would break the trust of the king because he wanted it to be private.
Sithambaram: I’m asking you, Sir, if a donation, never mind the Saudi donation…If a donation was put in a government fund, it would have been more transparent, wouldn’t it? That’s my question.
Anifah: There’s a difference between a personal donation…
Sithambaram: Okay, you don’t want to answer, that’s fine.
Sithambaram then accused Anifah of lying about the January meeting and that King Abdullah never offered any donation to Najib, which the witness denied.
He also denied knowing Jho Low as masterminding the meeting between the Malaysian delegation and the Saudi government.
Anifah and Najib were on a working trip to Saudi Arabia between January 13 and January 16, 2010.
Unlike Syed Omar and Jamil, who previously testified that the donation was pledged at an informal meeting on January 11, Anifah maintained that the offer was made in a meeting between January 13 and 16.
Sithambaram then suggested that Low told Najib of the alleged donation only in June 2010, months after the meeting with the Saudis, to which Anifah said he was not aware of that.
Sithambaram: Are you aware that Jho Low was closely connected to the Saudi royal family?
Anifah: I am not aware.
Sithambaram: When did you become aware of this?
Anifah: I am not even sure until today whether he was close with the Saudi royal family.
Sithambaram: Have you met Jho Low?
Anifah: I’ve not met Jho Low.
Sithambaram: In fact, from the evidence (submitted by) Datuk Seri Najib, he mentioned Jho Low had more clout with the Saudi royal family.
Anifah: I was not aware of that.
Sithambaram: So, you’re saying, as foreign minister, you have no knowledge that Jho Low was in any way connected to the royal family in 2010 or thereafter?