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Day 72: Najib's letters to Saudi king devoid of thanks for cash donations

Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid & Hariz Mohd

Published
Modified 23 Jan 2020, 8:19 am

LIVE | The criminal trial of former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak involving the alleged misappropriation of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd enters day 72 today at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysiakini brings you live reports of the proceedings.

Summary of Najib’s SRC RM42 million case

Najib is facing 7 charges relating to RM42m involving SRC International, a former 1MDB subsidiary.

  • 1 abuse of power charge
  • 3 criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges
  • 3 money laundering charges
  • ClickTap to view information on judge, prosecution and defence team


KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Najib's letters to Saudi king devoid of thanks for cash donations   
  • I never checked bank statement on RM2.6b Saudi donation, Najib says
  • Najib able to identify his signature on photocopy letter for bank
  • Najib left mandate holder unchanged despite Nik Faisal's lack of integrity
  • 'I used credit card to avoid using public funds to buy Qatar gift'
  • Husni needed cabinet paper to retrieve RM3.6b from Switzerland: Najib
  • Najib not shocked aides kept secret about millions in his accounts
  • I did not know RM42m was SRC's money: Najib
  • DPP claims 'Malaysian political feudalism' in second loan release
  • Najib uncertain which minutes on sending RM1.8b overseas came first
  • Najib denies giving KWAP direct instruction for second RM2b SRC loan
  • Judge allows Aussie handwriting expert to examine Najib's signatures


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5.10pm - Thank you for following our live report today.

Reporting by Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid and Hariz Mohd. Photographs by Azneal Ishak. Social media updates by Ewe Linq Yenn.

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Court adjourns, trial to continue tomorrow

4.50pm - Proceedings adjourn for today and will resume at 9am tomorrow.



Najib's letters to Saudi king devoid of thanks for cash donations

4.20pm - The court hears that Najib Abdul Razak had written two letters to the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud (above), then the King of Saudi Arabia, in 2012 and 2013.

According to cross-examination by the prosecution on Najib, these letters to the Saudi monarch were written after Najib had purportedly received cash donations from King Abdullah in three occasions between Feb 2011 and March 2013.

However, despite purportedly having received the donations of US$100 million, US$375 million and US$800 million, respectively, both letters written by Najib to King Abdullah did not mention him thanking the latter for donating the funds.

Answering a series of questions from DPP V Sithambaram, the accused claims that he did not mention the donations in his letters as they were sent through proper diplomatic channels.

Instead, Najib adds, he did thank King Abdullah when they met face to face.

Sithambaram: Again (in the second letter), you failed to mention even in passing thanking his majesty for the donations you received.

Najib: Yes. Because it goes through the normal channel.

Sithambaram: Whatever channel sir, you are not thanking him.

Najib: Not in this letter.

Sithambaram: Have you got any other letter thanking him?

Najib: No, but when I met his majesty, I did thank him.


4.02pm - Proceedings resume after a short break.


3.35pm - Proceedings go for a short break.


Najib testifies never checking bank statement to ensure receipt of donation

3.20pm - Najib Abdul Razak testifies that he never checked the bank statements sent to his house at Langgak Duta to see if the alleged RM2.6 billion Arab donation really came in.

During cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram, the former prime minister says that he knew about the donation coming in through other means, such as letters confirming it came in.

Najib says he cannot remember whether he ever looked at the bank statements on account 694 that was sent to his house from 2011 to 2013.

Sithambaram: Your claim of knowledge of RM2.6 billion coming into your account without looking at the bank statement cannot be believed. This is better than a lottery (RM2.6 billion).

Najib: I said the letters came (confirming the money was sent). I knew.

Sithambaram: Unless you look at the bank statement, you cannot be sure.

Najib: I do not remember (checking any bank statement on the RM2.6 billion banked in). The money is a genuine donation (from the Saudi royal family).


Najib identifies his signature on photocopy of bank authorisation letter

3.10pm - Najib Abdul Razak was able to identify his signature on a letter appointing authorised personnel to operate his 694 AmBank account, despite the said document being a photocopy.

During cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram, the former prime minister says he could identify his signature on the photocopied letter shown to him by an MACC officer during investigation.

This morning, the High Court had allowed Najib to call an Australian expert to ascertain the authenticity of his signatures on 13 disputed documents linked to the RM42 million SRC International case.

Najib had sought the expert's opinion because the 13 documents were photocopy versions when shown to him by MACC during its probe, hence why he is not certain if those really were his signatures on the documents.

Sithambaram: P60(5) (letter exhibit on the appointment of authorised personnel to handle Najib's 694 account) was a photocopy and you recognised it based on content and signature.

Najib: Yes.

Sithambaram: You were satisfied. You identified it based on a photocopy?

Najib: Yes.

Then the accused and DPP gets into a heated exchange on why he could ascertain his signature on some documents but was not sure of others.

"Because it related to something simple," Najib says on why he recognised his signature on the mandate letter.


Despite Nik Faisal's lack of integrity, Najib kept him as mandate holder

3.05pm - The court hears from former premier Najib Abdul Razak that in 2014 he was alerted to then CEO of SRC International, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, having an issue of integrity in managing the company.

Najib agrees that he was informed about this by the then chairperson of SRC board of directors, Ismee Ismail. Ismee had told this to Najib through the latter's principal private secretary Azlin Alias.

"Yes, that was why I changed him (Nik Faisal) (from being CEO of SRC)," Najib says when being examined by DPP V Sithambaram.

However, despite Nik Faisal also being the mandated person to manage Najib's bank accounts with AmIslamic Bank then, Najib agreed that he did not change the mandate holder.

According to Najib, he had kept Nik Faisal to manage his accounts as the issues of integrity brought to his attention then only involved the latter's role in SRC.

Najib says he was not alerted by the bank of any issues with his accounts then, hence why he didn't remove Nik Faisal from managing them.

This appears to irk Sithambaram, who then asks Najib the logic behind this.

Sithambaram: Are you telling the court that if a man of no integrity in SRC matters would be of integrity to manage your accounts? Are you splitting him?

Najib: No. I expected if something untoward (happened with the accounts), the bank would inform me.

Sithambaram: I'm putting it to you sir, that Nik Faisal was your trusted lieutenant whom you planted in SRC to siphon funds from SRC into your accounts.

Najib: I totally disagree.


I used own credit card to buy gift for wife of then Qatar PM: Najib

2.49pm - Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak testifies that he used his own credit card to pay for a gift for the wife of then Qatar prime minister as he wanted to avoid using public funds.

The accused says this during cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram.

The DPP is questioning Najib over the use of the credit card to pay RM3.2 million for a gift purchased at De Grisogono, Italy, to be given to the wife of Sheikh Ahmed Jassim Al Thani in 2014.

The DPP is also asking Najib what was the purpose of the credit card account the latter opened with AmBank.

Sithambaram: Gifts for heads of states are to come out of government coffers. The prime minister is not expected to use his own salary.

Najib: There is this account (credit card) and I did not want to use public funds to buy a gift for (the wife of) the prime minister of Qatar. He was a close friend of mine.

Najib reiterates that the gift was expensive and did not want to use public money.


2.28pm - Proceedings resume after lunch break.


12.45pm - Proceedings adjourn for lunch. 

The former prime minister's cross-examination will continue this afternoon at 2.15pm.


Husni lacked proper plan to retrieve RM3.6b from Switzerland: Najib

12.39pm - Then second finance minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah should have prepared a cabinet paper before going to Switzerland to try and get back RM3.6 billion of SRC International's funds there, Najib Abdul Razak testifies.

The former prime minister says that he did not allow Husni to go to Switzerland then because the latter did not have a proper plan which required a paper to be presented to the cabinet first.

He says this during cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram.

Najib: I wanted him (Husni) to tell me in detail how he wanted to do it.

Sithambaram: So he needed a big plan?

Najib: Submit a proper plan and give to the cabinet. But he had no proper plan.

Sithambaram: This involved pensioners (KWAP money). This sounds like a James Bond film. This is just 'G to G' (government to government).

Najib: You have to prepare a cabinet paper before going.

During the prosecution stage of trial last year, Husni testified that Najib prevented him from heading to Switzerland to try and get back RM3.6 billion of SRC International's funds frozen there.

Those funds were part of the RM4 billion in loans that KWAP lent to SRC between late 2011 and early 2012.

When Sithambaram asks him whether he had a plan then, Najib replies that he did not and left the matter to SRC's management.


Najib not shocked aides kept movements of RM32m in his accounts a secret

12.15pm - Najib Abdul Razak says he was not shocked to know that former SRC International CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil (photo) and his then principal private secretary Azlin Alias had kept secret about RM32 million going into and out of his bank accounts in 2014.

The former prime minister testifies this under cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram, who was querying him about a total of RM32 million that flowed from SRC funds into Najib's Ambank accounts in Dec 2014, and was later debited from the accounts.

Najib, however, stands fast with his defence that he had no knowledge about the transactions amounting to RM32 million, saying that he did not receive the bank statements.

He reiterates that Nik Faisal was managing the account, while Azlin supervised.

Sithambaram: RM32 million was debited from your accounts, they didn't tell you and you didn't find it shocking?

Najib: No.

Sithambaram: So the mandate holder and Azlin can keep away from you large funds going in and leaving your account, and you don't find it shocking, correct sir?

Najib: Yes.


11.55am - Proceedings resume after a short break.


11.17am - Proceedings go for a short break.


I did not know RM42m was SRC's money: Najib

11.07am - Najib Abdul Razak reiterates that he did not know that the RM42 million that flowed into his bank accounts between late 2014 and late 2015 was SRC International's money.

The former prime minister says this during cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram.

Najib says he did not know then that the RM27 million, RM10 million and RM5 million that went into his accounts were from SRC.

Najib: I did not know it was SRC money (loudly). I only knew later.

Sithambaram: Did you spend every sen of it (RM27 million that went into Najib's account)?

Najib: Yes.

Sithambaram: You spent every sen of the RM5 million?

Najib: Yes, at that time, I did not know.

Sithambaram: RM27 million came in and you spent RM27 million?

Najib: I did not know it was SRC money.


DPP claims 'Malaysian political feudalism' in second loan release to SRC

10.48am - Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak disagrees that "Malaysian political feudalism" permeated the early disbursement of second RM2 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) to SRC International.

During cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram, the former finance minister says this over the disbursement done even before a cabinet approval for a government guarantee for the second loan in early 2012.

Sithambaram is asking Najib about him contacting then treasury secretary-general Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah for early disbursement of the RM2 billion loan.

KWAP issued the first tranche RM2 billion loan to SRC in late 2011, and second tranche RM2 billion loan to the company in early 2012.

Sithambaram: This is Malaysian political feudalism.

Najib: No, no, I disagree as there were times they (KWAP) disagreed with me.

Sithambaram: Quite feudal, they listen to the boss.

Najib: Yes, but they can give their opinion. When I give an instruction, they can disagree with me.

Sithambaram: We all know (what happened to those) who disagreed with you.


Najib not sure which minutes came first on sending RM1.8b overseas

10.25am - Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak agrees that two shareholder minutes approving RM1.8 billion of SRC funds to be sent overseas shared the same date as the company's directors circular resolution deciding to do so on Feb 13, 2012.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Najib also agrees that the shareholder minutes, marked as D534 and D535 in the trial, were attached in the directors resolution.

However, Najib says he could not be certain which document came first. He also disagrees that the shareholder minutes must have come first as it was attached in SRC directors resolution.


Najib says he never gave direct instruction for KWAP to give second loan

10.01am - Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak testifies that he never gave direct instruction to Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) to issue a second tranche RM2 billion loan to SRC International.

The former finance minister says this during cross-examination by DPP V Sithambaram.

The DPP is questioning the accused on whether the latter had exerted subtle pressure on then Treasury secretary-general Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah for KWAP to grant the second loan.

KWAP first gave an RM2 billion loan to SRC in late 2011, and a second RM2 billion loan in early 2012. Najib was then SRC advisor emeritus.

Najib: When I referred to KWAP, they must go through due process.

Sithambaram: But this is where the prime minister (Najib) called the chairperson of the board about SRC needing a loan?

Najib: I never gave direct instruction. It is for them (KWAP) to look into it.

Sithambaram: He (Wan Abdul Aziz) is bound to consider it (RM2 billion loan from KWAP to SRC) favourably.

Najib: No, at that time, they have to decide on the merits of the case. So I disagree.


Judge allows Najib's application to call expert handwriting witness

9.40am - As the trial begins for the day, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge presiding the case, Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, starts the day with delivering his decision on an application by accused Najib Abdul Razak to call for an expert witness to examine signatures on seven disputed documents.

In his ruling, Nazlan (photo) states that he decided to allow Najib's application as an accused is entitled to procure any relevant evidence of his choice in his defence.

However, he adds, the weight of evidence given by the witness would be determined by the court at the end of the case.

The court would also weigh if the credibility of Najib's defence is adversely affected by any afterthought.

Nazlan also rules that the prosecution is allowed to call a rebuttal witness as provided under Section 425 of the Criminal Procedure Code if they wish to do so.

Nazlan then orders the defence to arrange for the expert to examine the documents without interfering with the trial proceedings. This is to be done within two days before Feb 3.

Here is the judge's ruling:

"Even if the basis for this application is an afterthought or a recent invention by the accused, this is not a valid reason to bar the accused from leading evidence in his defence. Under the law, an accused in his defence is entitled to procure and lead any relevant evidence of his choice. Furthermore, it is settled law that even if a defence is not put to the prosecution witnesses, the court is still bound to consider the defence, however weak.

"Nevertheless the weight to be given to this expert evidence, should it be tendered, including on whether the credibility of the defence of the accused is adversely affected by any afterthought, is for this court to determine at the end of the case. The evidentiary value of the intended evidence is an issue to be determined at the end of the case.

"This would ensure that the best evidence on the authenticity of the disputed documents is made available to this court. It is the duty of this court to ensure that the integrity of the trial process and the constitutional right of the accused to a fair trial is upheld at all times.

"I, therefore, allow the application for the examination of the exhibits but only to those referred to as disputed documents in paragraph 4 of the written submissions of the applicant.

"In order to ensure that the examination of the exhibits does not ‎interfere with the proceedings of this case, the defence must arrange for the examination by the expert to take place next week, for a period of not more than two days, before the trial continues, after tomorrow, on Feb 3, 2020. The venue will be in the court premises, to be further notified by the deputy registrar, and with representatives of the prosecution, defence and the court to be in attendance.

"Consequent to my allowing this application by the accused, considering the facts and circumstances of this application, I further rule that this is a proper case for this court, and that it is essential to the just decision of the case to allow the prosecution to call rebuttal witnesses ‎under Section 425 of the CPC should it wish to do so, in relation to the evidence that may be given by the expert document examiner, should this expert be called by the defence."


9.35am - Najib Abdul Razak enters the dock as proceedings begin.

The prosecution and defence are expected to find out today if the latter will be allowed to have an Australian handwriting expert examine the authenticity of the former prime minister's signatures on 13 key documents in his RM42 million SRC International trial.


9.06am - Najib Abdul Razak enters the Kuala Lumpur High Court and takes a seat at the front row of the public gallery.

Also in court awaiting proceedings are Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and other DPPs, as well as members of the former prime minister's defence team.


Najib Abdul Razak will know today whether he would be allowed by the Kuala Lumpur High Court for an Australian handwriting expert to examine the authenticity of the former prime minister's signatures on 13 key documents in his RM42 million SRC International trial.

The 72nd day of the accused's hearing today is set for justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali to deliver his decision on the former's bid to bring the expert into proceedings, which is strongly opposed by the prosecution.

Yesterday, Najib's counsel Harvinderjit Singh submitted that the defence is seeking the expert's input as the prosecution failed to prove the authenticity of the accused's signatures during the prosecution stage of the trial last year.

DPP V Sithambaram had countered that Najib's bid amounted to a mere afterthought as the defence had every opportunity to dispute the authenticity of the documents via cross-examination of prosecution witnesses last year.

During the latter half of proceedings yesterday, the prosecution managed to resume the cross-examination of Najib, where the accused among others testified that his then administration backed a second loan of RM2 billion from Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) to SRC despite the first tranche loan of RM2 billion to the company not yielding results.

When proceedings resume around 9am this morning, the judge is expected to first deliver his decision on Najib's handwriting expert application, then preside over the prosecution's further cross-examination of the accused. 

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