Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 59

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Najib’s day in court makes history as the first former prime minister of Malaysia to enter his defence on criminal charges.

Defence claims:

  • Najib has no personal interest in SRC
  • Najib had acted only in the best interests of the country in matters concerning the company
  • Nothing sinister in the amendments made to the memorandum and articles of association of SRC
  • Najib unaware of the actual transactions in his accounts
  • No report lodged by Najib on suspicious transactions in his bank accounts as matter already under investigation
  • Najib never intended to wrongfully gain or enrich himself with any of those funds and never intended to cause wrongful harm to any party
  • Najib was not involved in any corrupt arrangement involving SRC funds, did not solicit any bribes from any person
  • The RM42 million transferred into Najib’s account was done without his knowledge or involvement and was not a form of gratification
  • Najib’s accounts were being manipulated by third parties without his knowledge and approval
  • Najib had no power to order the KWAP to approve SRC loan applications

8.45am: Attorney-General Tommy Thomas is seen in the High Court with other members of the prosecution team, preparing for proceedings to begin.

8.54am: Najib arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. He is greeted at the lobby by a group of supporters.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

8.59am: Najib enters the High Court and takes a seat at the front row of the packed public gallery.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

9.18am: Najib’s lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah enters the High Court and greets his client.

9.30am: Najib enters the dock as proceedings begin, with Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali presiding.

9.31am: Shafee says the defence has prepared a statement for Najib, and counsel Harvinderjit Singh will be in court soon.

9.40am: Before Shafee begins his opening speech, he gives a letter to Nazlan requesting to be excused earlier.

Shafee says he is invited to attend an event in Universiti Malaya later today and the letter only reached him yesterday.

9.35am: Shafee begins reading out the opening statement. The accused looks on from the dock.

9.40am: Najib’s defence team could only interview seven out of 66 witnesses offered by the prosecution for the former prime minister’s defence stage of the trial, the High Court hears.

Shafee says this during the opening statement of the first day of Najib’s defence stage of the trial.

9.45am: The federal government’s endorsement of the Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP) funding of SRC International was based on its intended activities in promulgating national key development areas identified in the 10th Malaysia Plan and the New Energy Policy, says the defence.

Shafee stresses that this was the justification which underscored the decisions made by the EPU, KWAP, Finance Ministry and the cabinet in approving both the government guarantees and disbursement of RM4 billion to SRC.

“To say otherwise would be to unreasonably imply and infer that the relevant decision-makers, including the head of the Treasury, relevant ministers, members of the Investment Panel of KWAP and members of the cabinet had committed a dereliction of their public, statutory and/or constitutional duties,” he tells the court.

9.48am: Shafee says Najib had no personal interest in SRC International to conflict his public duty.

“Najib had no personal interest in SRC at all times, which can be said to be conflicted with his public duty.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

“There is no question of Najib having a personal interest. The acts and involvement of Najib in matters concerning SRC led to matters which were endorsed or ultimately approved by KWAP, the EPU, minister, the Finance Ministry, the Treasury and/or the Cabinet.

These acts of Najib were motivated only by the best interests of the government and Malaysia,” he tells the court.

9.52am: Najib’s defence contends there was nothing sinister in the amendments made to the memorandum and articles of association of SRC International in April 2012, the High Court hears.

Shafee says the related testimony that the matter originated from SRC shareholder was incredible and inconsistent with the contents of the document itself, among others.

“In any event, the ambit of Article 117 on the role of the advisor emeritus (Najib) did not support the view that the same was designed or used as a means to control the board,” Shafee says.

9.59am: Contemporaneous evidence presented in court has shown that Najib had no knowledge of the actual transactions in his account, his lawyer claims.

“As a whole, the evidence with regard to the manner in which cheques were issued from Najib’s accounts versus the actual balances of the accounts leans in favour of a clear inference that he was not being accurately told of the real balances in the accounts.

“The same is fortified by the other contemporaneous evidence which revealed there was a scheme in place to ensure that Najib was unaware of the actual transactions in his accounts,” he says.

Shafee also claims the evidence does not support the inference that the RM42 million that went into Najib’s Ambank accounts was gratification for which Najib was paid either by himself or through any other party as part of a corrupt arrangement.

10.03am: Shafee says Najib did not lodge any police report nor raise complaints on suspicious transactions in his bank accounts as the matter was already under investigation.

“… and Najib chose instead to respect the process and integrity on the then on-going investigations.”

10.06am: “Throughout 2011 to 2015, Najib was of the understanding that matters relating to the opening of his CSR accounts, the remittances into the accounts and supporting documents for the same had been duly reported to Bank Negara Malaysia and Zeti Akhtar Aziz and this fortified his belief that nothing sinister was taking place.

“Najib’s utilisation of the funds from the accounts by way of cheques from 2011 to 2015 were almost all for CSR related matters to promote political, social, charitable causes and community-related projects.

“Najib, therefore never intended to wrongfully gain or enrich himself with any of those funds and never intended to cause wrongful harm to any party.

10.10am: Shafee says Najib was not involved in any corrupt arrangement involving funds of SRC and did not solicit any bribes from any person. The RM42 million transferred into his account was done without his knowledge or involvement and was not a form of gratification related to any act of Najib vis-à-vis SRC.

“Najib was being misrepresented on about the transactions and actual balances in his accounts in 2013 to 2015 and his accounts were being manipulated by third parties without his knowledge and approval,” says Shafee.

10.15am: Shafee ends his statement by saying the defence will pray for an order that Najib be acquitted and discharged of all seven charges.

10.29am: The prosecution objects to the defence handing Najib’s witness statement to them only this morning at 9am.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas says this will not only contravene the need to hand over such documents 14 days before the trial commences but will also affect the prosecution’s current questions for cross-examination.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

Thomas says this is because the prosecution prepared cross-examination questions without the benefit of the witness statement.

DPP V Sithambaram also adds that as a result of the delay in receiving the document, the prosecution will reserve the right to raise objection later on any evidence in Najib’s witness statement that may amount to hearsay, among others.

However, the prosecution has no objection to Najib proceeding with reading out from the witness statement.

10.30am: Najib takes the stand.

He starts reading his oath in both English and Malay.

Najib’s witness statement is about 240 pages, with a total of 153 questions and answers.

He will be speaking in Malay as his statement is also in Malay.

10.45am: Najib is going through the Cabinet portfolios he held over the years.

10.52am: The Cabinet’s decision for the federal government to take over the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) was reluctantly made to protect the then Agong and Terengganu state government from embarrassment, Najib testifies.

“It was a decision that was reluctantly made to protect the state government and Yang di-Pertuan Agong from embarrassment and also to prevent negative impact on the Malaysian bond market globally,” Najib says.

TIA is the precursor of what is now known as 1MDB.

10.56am: “As early as 2009, the Terengganu government, the Menteri Besar Terengganu Inc (MBTI) and the sultan, at the time was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Mizan has decided to establish a sovereign wealth fund with a capital of RM11 billion named as Terengganu Investment Agency Berhad (TIA).

“These funds should have been derived from oil royalty debt (to Terengganu) of RM6 billion and the remaining balance will be earned through Islamic Medium-Term Notes (1MTN) issues of RM5 billion such as proposed to be guaranteed by the federal government.

“At that time, I was invited into my capacity as finance minister to facilitate the issuance of IMTN,” says Najib.

11am: Najib testifies that Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, was a close acquaintance of Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin and his sister Tengku Rahimah Sultan Mahmud.

“The concept of TIA, as I understand it, had come from discussions between Jho Low and His Royal Highness, and the Terengganu state government.

“I was made to understand that Jho Low was appointed as an adviser to the then chairperson of TIA Board of Advisors, which was Tuanku himself.”

11.13am: Najib says Ismail Ismee, Mohd Bakke Salleh, Azlan Zainol and Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi were TIA directors before it was taken over by the federal government.

11.16am: Najib testifies that he saw nothing extraordinary in the amendment to 1MDB’s memorandum and articles of association (M&A) that grants him specific powers as seen in Articles 68 and 117 of said M&A.

“All these matters were proposed by the (1MDB) board of directors and management.

“I saw nothing extraordinary about this matter. As a prime minister, I was given absolute authority (kuasa mutlak) in the appointment of directors of other GLC companies like Khazanah, Petronas, PNB, TNB, Telekom and others,” Najib says.

He says the 1MDB M&A was never shown to him and that no element of force was used at any time so that the proviso was inserted into the M&A.

Shafee: How are other 1MDB directors appointed?

Najib: As stated in the note dated 28 July 2009, which was reported in the Cabinet on 29 July 2009, directors of 1MDB are the same ones under the TIA. All these directors are very experienced and qualified individuals, who also served in other GLCs.

I don’t see any reason to change the composition of the board, where the existing one has been involved in the operations of the company.

11.18am: Najib denies he was involved in appointing members of the 1MDB management team.

“In essence, I deal with the CEO and chairperson of 1MDB, and had no dealings with the management team. I believe the individuals (to join 1MDB) would be appointed by the CEO or the chairperson themselves,” he testifies.

11.20am: The court hears from Najib that he believed Jho Low had influence in the Middle East and thus could help ease investment dealings in the region.

He says that Low carried himself as someone who was “very influential” with Middle Eastern countries.

“… which made me believe that he should be able to assist in investment and (business) shareholding with them.

“These countries, meaning the Middle Eastern countries, at that time were having cash overflow due to the increase in (global) oil price. Thus, I was of the opinion that Jho Low’s influence and the connection would ease 1MDB objectives and investments as intended.”

11.34am: The court takes a short break in proceedings.

11.43am: Najib supporters swarm the canteen to take photos with him.

TMI

12.10pm: Court is in session.

Najib resumes reading from his witness statement.

12.18pm: Proceedings adjourn for a brief break, to allow the defence to photocopy Najib’s witness statement, which was missing pages.

12.39pm: Proceedings resume with a photocopied witness statement of Najib, with all the pages included.

12.43pm: Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi enters the High Court.

He is seen taking a seat in the middle row of the public gallery as Najib continues to read from his witness statement.

Defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohamad: Are you involved in setting up SRC International on January 7, 2011?

Najib: No. As I mentioned, that is within the scope of the Economy Planning Unit. I believe that 1MDB had reported to EPU about the establishment of SRC International. However, I was only aware of the company then.

12.49pm: Najib answers the question on whether he had at any point urged for the insertion of Articles 67 and 116 into SRC’s M&A.

He says that he never urged (mendesak) for the insertion of Article 116 among others into SRC’s memorandum and M&A.

“No, I was not involved nor consulted at that stage. I found out about it in a letter dated June 3, 2011 (from SRC) stating that the establishment (of SRC) was approved by the EPU Minister, TSNMY (an acronym for Nor Mohamad Yackop).

Article 116 refers to then-SRC Board of Advisors chairperson Najib’s veto power in relation to the removal of directors of SRC.

12.55pm: The proceeding sees Najib adducing Petronas’ memorandum and M&A as evidence in his defence.

This comes as he testifies that the M&A of SRC was not the only one that gives “overarching” power to the prime minister of Malaysia in government-linked companies.

According to Najib, the Petronas M&A gives a more overarching power to the PM compared to what is stipulated in SRC’s M&A.

“… I want to show that the power of the PM in Petronas is even more far-reaching, more overarching compared to (the power) in SRC’s operations.

“That is the main point (in adducing the Petronas M&A),” he tells the court.

12.58pm: The court hears from Najib that he had no knowledge that Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil and Vincent Koh Beng Huat were named as the shareholders and directors of SRC when the company was registered.

Najib also claims he had never met Nik Faisal or Koh over SRC matters.

“No, I have no knowledge about this whatsoever. Neither did I at any time ever met with Nik Faisal or Vincent Koh Beng Huat over SRC.

Najib also claims he did not know that SRC shares were only transferred to 1MDB towards the end of 2011.

1pm: Proceedings adjourn for lunch.

2.35pm: Proceedings resume.

Najib resumes reading from his witness statement during the defence’s examination-in-chief.

Examination-in-chief is conducted by defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed because Shafee had to attend to a meeting this afternoon.

2.44pm: Najib testifies that although he wrote ‘Agree’ (Bersetuju) on SRC’s loan application from Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP), it is not a final decision (muktamad).

Najib says there were times when officers disagreed with the jotting and appealed to him to change his decision.

“‘Agree’ (Bersetuju) does not mean it is final and cannot be changed. It depends on the perusal process by officers, who may have differing opinions.

“Therefore, the word ‘Agree’ does not mean carte blanche. It does not prevent different opinions from being aired and considered,” Najib says.

It was reported that SRC received a total of RM4 billion in loans from KWAP between 2011 and 2012.

2.45pm: Najib tells the court that as a finance minister, he had no power to order the KWAP to approve SRC loan applications back in 2010 and 2011.

Najib says only the KWAP investment panel has the power to approve a loan application to the fund, as per the Retirement Fund Act 2007.

“The view of Azian that I was her ‘ultimate boss’ also did not have any meaning in KWAP’s decision to approve the loan, because as the CEO, she too did not have any right to vote in the (investment panel’s) loan approval process.

3pm: SRC’s loan application from KWAP is not prevented by the company not having any track record, Najib testifies.

He says the development initiative policy needs a starting point.

“That is why EPU (Economic Planning Unit) approved the launch grant as a kickstart and proposed further funding (pembiayaan) to be obtained by SRC,” Najib says.

Wan Aizuddin: When did you begin to realise that SRC International intended to apply for government guarantee, for the purpose of repaying the proposed loan RM2 billion from KWAP?

Najib: I believe it was on or about when SRC International issued the letter to the Ministry of Finance applying for government guarantee as in (D520).

Wan Aizuddin: Was the government guarantee as in (D520) brought to your attention?

Najib: Not in detail. I have been told that though SRC International applied for government guarantee, because KWAP requires assurances by the government. This matter was referred to Nor Mohd Yakcop as the minister in charge of SRC International at that time.

Wan Aizuddin: Are you aware of the Treasury’s approval in the memo?

Najib: It is very possible that I am aware, even though I have no specific memory about this document. It was told to me by someone either from the Treasury or by Nor himself.

3.26pm: Najib testifies he has no personal interest in SRC.

“I emphasise sternly that I have no single personal interest in SRC, except in my professional capacity as prime minister and finance minister and my public duty to act in the best interest of the government of Malaysia,” Najib says.

Wan Aizuddin: Afidah Azwa and Maliami Hamad testified they were forced to prepare a memorandum for Cabinet approval.

On August 15, 2011, they were ordered to ensure that the Cabinet paper was available for discussion in the Cabinet meeting scheduled for August 17, 2011.

The entire process seems like it was rushed. Information given to Afidah of the SRC could not establish which of it was against common practices of the Bahagian Pelaburan Khas Awam (BPKA).

3.35pm: The court hears from Najib that he only endorsed a list of potential directors for SRC that was given to him in Aug 2011 by then 1MDB CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi.

According to Najib’s testimony, the list included Ismee Ismail, who was proposed as SRC chairperson, and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil as its CEO and managing director.

“I was informed these individuals were chosen by 1MDB and I did not see any reason to disagree with the appointment of the people they listed,” he testifies.

Wan Aizuddin: Did you agree with the appointment of Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil and Vincent Koh Beng Huat as the initial directors of SRC International?

Najib: No. I was not informed of this and did not approve anything.

Najib: It is something to note that on August 12, 2011, regarding the loan to be made for SRC International, it had been discussed since June 2011.

3.55pm: The court takes a brief break.

4.14pm: Proceedings resume after a brief break.

4.20pm: Najib tells the court he was shocked to hear the testimony of former SRC chairperson Ismee Ismail, who accused him of giving orders to the company’s board of directors before they reach a decision.

Claiming the allegation was illogical, he testifies that all matters related to SRC operations, its joint venture with Aabar Investments PJS, and financial fundings were all under the responsibility of the board.

He says it was the board that was responsible to discuss the matters before getting approval from Minister of Finance Incorporated as SRC International’s shareholder.

“I was shocked to hear the testimony of Ismee, where his view was contradictory to his experience in several government-linked companies.

“I surely had never signed any documents to direct the board of directors on matters which they have to settle first for the company’s interests,” Najib says.

4.25pm: The prosecution objects an attempt by Najib’s defence team to mark a letter purportedly received by the former premier from Prince Turki Al-Saud as evidence.

This was despite Najib vouching he had indeed received the letter.

DPP V Sithambaram says the letter should be marked as IDD until its authenticity can be ascertained.

Code IDD is used to adduce a possible piece of evidence which has yet to be confirmed.

4.42pm: Najib denies making a decision on the transfer of SRC to Minister of Finance Inc, before then-Treasury secretary-general Md Nor Nawi issued a related memo, the High Court hears.

Najib says this is because the proposal in the said memo was already agreed in principle by him, but that this is still subject to approval by System and Control Unit, among others.

“In the end, I believe that Md Nor Nawi had agreed for the matter contained in the memo, it was the result of his own evaluation on the proposal (transfer ownership),” Najib says.

4.56pm: Najib’s defence team will interview as many defence witnesses as possible on Thursday and Friday, the High Court hears.

Najib’s defence counsel Farhan Read tells this to judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali at the end of today’s proceedings.

Thursday and Friday this week are not set for the hearing of Najib’s RM42 million SRC International trial.

Nazlan then allows proceedings to adjourn for the day, and to continue at 9am tomorrow.

4.57pm: Wan Aizuddin presents Najib with document exhibit P328A and asks if he signed it.

Najib: I believe that the original document was not presented in court. So, I cannot confirm the authenticity of the document. If I have signed the document, that would be the case referred to me through Bahagian Menteri Kewangan Diperbadankan in line with the usual procedure.

5.00pm: Court adjourns until tomorrow.


Earlier reports:

Dec 3, Najib’s Day in Court

Aug 27, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 58

Aug 23, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 57

Aug 22, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 56

Aug 20, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 55

Aug 19, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 54

Aug 14, SRC Trial Postponed as Najib Down with Sore Eyes

Aug 13, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 52

Aug 9, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 51

Aug 7, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 50

Aug 6, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 49

Aug 5, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 48

Aug 1, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 47

July 31, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 46

July 29, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 45

July 25, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 44

July 24, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 43 Vacated

July 23, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 42

July 22, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 41

July 18, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 40

July 17, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 39

July 16, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 38

July 15, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 37

July 11, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 36

July 10, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 35

July 9, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 34

July 8, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 33

July 3, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 32

July 3, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 31

July 1, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 30

June 20, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 29

June 19, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 28

June 18, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 27

June 17, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 26

June 14, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 25

June 13, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 24

June 12, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 23

June 11, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 22

June 10, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 21

May 28, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 20

May 27, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 19

May 15, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 18

May 14, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 17

May 9, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 16

May 8, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 15

May 7, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 14

May 7, Najib Fails in Second Bid to Remove Sri Ram as 1MDB Lead Prosecutor

May 7, Najib Signed Guarantee Letter for RM2B KWAP Loan to SRC, KWAP Rules Breached

May 6, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 13

May 2, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 12

May 2, RM1M Golden Handshake in Final Month as PM for Najib

Apr 30, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 11

Apr 29, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 10

Apr 29, Court Throws Out Najib’s Application to Strike Out 7 SRC Charges, Trial to Go On

Apr 25, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Nine

Apr 24, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Eight

Apr 24, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Seven

Apr 22, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Six

Apr 18, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Five

Apr 17, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Four

Apr 16, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Three

Apr 15, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Two

Apr 3, Najib Trial: Day One