Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Seven

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Najib’s funding of English and Chinese media, as well as monitoring six Chinese dailies.

Chronology of Events:

12.10pm: The hearing which was scheduled to start at noon today has been postponed to 2.30pm.

This comes after defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed informs the court that Najib and his lawyers are still in another hearing at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, and seeks the court’s permission to allow the hearing to start at 2.30pm.

“The matter (at Court of Appeal) took longer than expected as the prosecution raised a preliminary objection.

“The argument (on the preliminary objection) took two hours and the main argument only started at 11am. The matter is still ongoing.

“Under the circumstances, we seek a stand down of the matter to start later (in the afternoon),” Aizuddin says.

The Court of Appeal hearing concerns Najib’s bid to recuse retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution in his 1MDB case.

DPP Sithambaram then tells the court that the prosecution has no objection as the matter is beyond their control.

Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali then asks the prosecution how many witnesses they plan to call today, to which Sithambaram says they are prepared to produce five witnesses.

The judge also informs both parties to be prepared for proceedings this afternoon to go beyond 5pm. He then adjourns the trial until 2.30pm.

This marks the second postponement in relation to today’s hearing, after the defence received permission yesterday for proceedings to begin at 12pm today rather than the usual 9am, due to the Court of Appeal hearing.

2.32pm: Shafee arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

2.44pm: Najib arrives at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Muhamad Shahril Rosli/The Star

Dressed in a black suit, he walks into the courtroom and sits down in the dock as the judge also enters the court to begin proceedings.

2.55pm: Thirteenth witness Ahmad Sahar, 56, confirms that an AmIslamic Bank cheque for RM1 million was received and banked in by the Penang Umno communications unit in 2015.

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

The Penang Umno secretary tells this to DPP Muhammad Saifuddin Hashim Musaimi during the examination-in-chief.

AmBank employee Badrul Hisham Mohamad testified last week that the Penang Umno communications unit received an AmIslamic Bank cheque for RM1 million, dated Feb 26, 2015.

It was confirmed that the funds came from an AmBank account linked to Najib.

3.04pm: Ahmad testifies that the RM1 million received by the Penang Umno communications unit in 2015 was used for welfare programmes to help victims of natural disasters such as flooding, among others.

During cross-examination by Shafee, Ahmad says that the funds also went to initiatives to help the poor and needy, as well as orphans and their schooling.

“The money has also been given to mosques to carry out programmes,” he adds.

Shafee: Can you confirm that this type of money transfer, to fund party activities, is a normal occurrence?

Ahmad: Yes

Shafee: What is the normal practice when you ask for funds? What is the threshold?

Ahmad: I was told to request when the account reaches a minimum of RM50,000. We would then request from Umno Malaysia.

3.13pm: The 14th witness, Rita Sim, director of Center for Strategic Engagement, is called to the stand. Her company does survey, public policy research and Chinese media monitoring services.

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

3.16pm: DPP Saifuddin: Does your company do any survey or research for PM’s Office?

Sim: Yes

Saifuddin: What kind of work

Sim: We did Chinese medium monitoring services. We send this daily analysis to the media office of the PMO via email.

3.19pm: Sim: The six Chinese dailies being monitored were Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau, China Press, Guang Ming Daily, Kwong Wah Jit Poh and Oriental Daily. The instructions were given to us by the late Jamaluddin Jarjis.

3.20pm: Sim: We invoice a bill every month and we are paid monthly.

Saifuddin: In 2015, did the company receive any payment for work done?

Sim: Yes. It was RM150k per month, for December 2014 and January 2015.

Saifuddini: Payment in what form?

Sim: Deposited in our bank account.

Saifuddin shows her a cheque to confirm whether it is a cheque issued to her company.

3.25pm: Witness is asked if she has met Najib.

Sim: Yes, but always with a group of people.

Sim confirms receiving a cheque of RM300,000. She confirms her phone number is written at the back of the cheque. She also confirms the account number is her company’s, with RHB Bank in Bangsar.

3.27pm: Shafee begins cross-examination.

Sim said she still runs the company today. She also said she has a postgraduate degree in Chinese linguistics and was educated in the UK.

3.31pm: Sim tells the court she was executive-director of Sin Chew Daily. She said she was involved in a merger of three Chinese newspapers in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

She says she was hired by Jamaluddin to figure out the issues affecting the Chinese community.

Sim says one way was to monitor the Chinese dailies and the Chinese websites.

She says eight to 10 people would be tasked with such a project.

3.32pm: Shafee: When you met Najib, was it in the presence of Jamaluddin Jarjis?

Sim: Yes. Jamaluddin wanted to know what affected the Chinese community, why they appear to be anti-government.

Shafee: Who were you dealing with, in the PM Department? Was there an officer to deal with the Chinese issues?

Sim: I don’t deal with that. I was there to do the media analysis and pass the information to the PMO.

3.34pm: Shafee: Was there an MCA person, I think by the name of Fui or Hui, who participated in the discussions?

Sim: I think there was a think-tank… I’m sorry I cannot remember.

Shafee: You can remember a person by the name of Fui. F-U-I?

Sim: Surname please?

Shafee: That’s all I have.

Sim: I’m sorry I can’t remember.

3.38pm: Shafee: Did you understand that it was important for Barisan Nasional to understand the Chinese dissatisfaction with the government (then)? Do you agree?

Sim: I think they are concerned with every (segment) The Chinese community is part of the Malaysian community.

Shafee: You sent a report to the PM?

Sim: No. Only to the PM media office.

Shafee: Who did you send it to? Anyone in particular?

Sim: We just sent it to the PMO media office.

3.40pm: Shafee: Are you nationalistic?

Sim: I am Malaysian.

3.41pm: Shafee asks if Sim has a son in the police force, to which Sim confirms this. Sim said she is uncertain whether the government take the advice given in their reports.

Sim recalls that one action the government took was to increase the funding for vernacular schools.

3.42pm: Shafee: Of your finding, analysis – the government took certain measures based on your studies?

Sim: We do give the analysis, but if they take the advice, it is not sure.

Shafee concludes his cross-examination. Prosecution say they have no further questions. The witness is excused.

3.45pm: Former vice-president of Upko Marcus Mojigoh takes the stand.

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

3.55pm: Mojigoh tells Saifuddin that he received RM1 million on February 13, 2015 from Najib.

“I received this cheque personally from ‘bossku’ in the PM’s office.”

4pm: Mojigoh: It was written in front of me in the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya.

Saifuddin: Does that include the name, amount and date?

Mojigoh: Yes.

Mojigoh says the money was used to pay for party activities, adding the component party had informed the coalition leadership there was not enough money to run programmes.

Saifuddin: In 2015, did you receive any financial aid from any party?

Mojigoh: Yes. At that time, we frequently had meetings. One of it is to help the public through Project Sayang but we did not have enough funds. So, we received help from Najib.

Saifuddin: So, this RM1 million were used for Project Sayang.

Mojigoh: Yes.

While testifying, Mojigoh sometimes refers to a “chairperson”, then a “president”, prompting the DPP to ask which is which.

Mojigoh: Datuk Seri Najib. Bossku.

Saifuddin: Do you see him in this courtroom?

Mojigoh: I can’t see him.

At this point, several in the gallery point to the accused’s dock. Mojigoh finally notices Najib and gives the former premier a salute.

Najib returns the salute.

Under Projek Sayang, he adds, the Upko’s women’s wing was instructed to visit and deliver contributions to bedridden patients, provide spectacles to senior citizens, and wheelchairs to those in need, among others.

The party also used Projek Sayang funding to conduct courses for the disabled and women.

4.01pm: Shafee begins cross-examination.

4.07pm: Shafee establishes Mojigoh was in charge of the Putatan division at the time.

Shafee has no further questions.

Mojigoh goes to shake Najib’s hand after he is excused.

4.11pm: The 16th witness Onn Hafiz, 41, takes the stand. He is a Johor Umno politician and great-grandson of Onn Jaafar.

Azlan Zamhari/Malaysiakini

He owns shares at Vital Spire, a company that provides motivational and leadership courses.

4.13pm: Onn Hafiz confirms receiving a cheque of RM240,000 on January 30, 2015, made to Vital Spire. He says the cheque was cashed at the CIMB branch in Bukit Damansara, where his company is located.

Vital Spire had received the money for the running of the website

Onn Hafiz: It is a news portal and it covers international and local news, as well as business, entertainment and sports on a daily basis.

4.17pm: Saifuddin: What is the purpose of the website?

Onn Hafiz: The purpose of the website is to disseminate news.

Saifuddin: The orders to set up the website from whom?

Onn Hafiz: It was set up on the direction of Najib.

I met him in PM’s office.

Saifuddin: Met him alone or in a group?

Onn Hafiz: Alone.

Saifuddin: So when you met Najib and received the cheque, what happened?

Onn Hafiz: I banked in.

Saifuddin: The cheque was cleared?

Onn Hafiz: Yes.

4.20pm: Shafee begins cross-examination.

Shafee to Onn Hafiz: You have to speak louder. This is for recording purpose. Don’t be worried, just answer truthfully.

4.21pm: Shafee: What is this relationship between this web portal and Vital Spire?

Onn Hafiz confirms the owner of the web portal is Vital Spire but it is not registered.

4.24pm: Onn Hafiz says the web-portal provides alternative news.

“We want to give balanced news for the general public. And combat fake news.”

4.27pm: Shafee: Is there anything in the contents that promotes government policy?

Onn Hafiz: Yes.

4.28pm: Onn Hafiz says there were 12 people on the team and that they would decide the editorial content. The site was closed last July.

The witness is excused.

In 2013, Malaysian Digest denied receiving monthly allocations from the Prime Minister’s Department.

4.29pm: The 17th witness former political secretary to Najib, Wong Nai Chee, 50, takes the stand.

Najjua Zulkefli/TMI

He served as Najib’s political secretary from December 2011 to May 2018. He worked on economic issues, Chinese community issues as well as religious issues.

4.33pm: Saifuddin: During your tenure, do you know of Lim Soon Peng?

Wong: Yes.

Saifuddin: When did you know about him?

Wong: After I took the job in Putrajaya.

Saifuddin: Is he a businessman or political person?

Wong: He is a businessman.

Lim was named as the recipient of a cheque of RM238,914 issued on February 12, 2015.

4.35pm: Wong describes Lim as having “direct contact with the grassroots”.

4.37pm: Saifuddin: When did you receive the cheque?

Wong: Cannot recall. Should be around the date of the cheque.

Saifuddin: This particular cheque was signed in front of you?

Wong: Yes.

Wong confirms Lim’s phone number was on the back of the cheque and the account number belongs to Lim.

4.41pm: The payments were for Lim to pay to AD Network, which runs Ah Jib Gor Facebook account, and Akademi Kewartawan & Informasi Taima, for Chinese news sites.

The court is told that payments to AD Network and Akademi Kewartawanan & Informasi Taima were made through Lim, as they had not wanted people to know that writers engaged by the entities were being paid by Najib.

4.43pm: Saifuddin: Did you check with Lim Soon Peng if the payment was cleared?

Wong: I didn’t.

4.44pm: Shafee begins cross-examination.

4.48pm: Shafee: Tell us about the grassroots jobs that this Tan Sri (Lim Soon Peng) was doing.

Wong: To mobilise old folks home and Chinese temples.

Shafee: Is this important?

Wong: It is very important to us (the government).

4.51pm: Shafee: Lim made payments back to back. One is AD Network.

Wong: They are for Ah Jib Gor Facebook page.

Shafee: Then the Chinese weekly?

Wong: They found they needed some objective articles, so not everything is seen in a negative light. To project the government’s policies for the correct purpose.

4.53pm: Wong said the Ah Jib Gor Facebook page had predominantly Chinese followers. It provided a platform between the former prime minister and the Chinese community. The responses gathered via the page was also used to analyse sentiments among the Chinese community.

4.54pm: Wong is released. He shakes Najib’s hand before leaving the courtroom.

4.55pm: DPP V Sithambaram apologises as the prosecution has “exhausted” the witness list.

Judge Nazlan adjourns the hearing to 9am tomorrow.

Earlier reports:

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