KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was today ordered by the High Court to enter his defence on all seven charges of abusing his position for gratification, criminal breach of trust and money laundering involving RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds.
Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the prosecution had successfully adduced credible evidence proving each and every essential ingredient of the offences.
He said a prima facie case had therefore been made out against the accused and ordered him to enter his defence.
He then gave Najib three options - giving sworn evidence from the witness box, giving an unsworn statement from the dock where he cannot be cross-examined or choose to remain silent, in which case the court must proceed to convict him.
Najib, who served as Malaysia’s sixth prime minister from April 2009 to May 2018, appeared calm after hearing the verdict.
The 66-year old later said that he will be giving evidence under oath, after each and every option was briefed to him by a court interpreter.
By choosing this option, he will be subjected to cross-examination by the prosecution.
He is the country’s first prime minister to find himself in the dock and is looking at a jail term of up to 20 years, if found guilty.
Among those who were present in the packed courtroom were Najib’s daughter Nooryana Najwa, former cabinet minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Umno supreme council member Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi, MIC deputy president Datuk Seri M. Saravanan and other supporters.
Nooryana was seen shaking her head as the judge read out the verdict while the other supporters silently left the courtroom after hearing was adjourned.
Mohd Nazlan, who took about an hour to read out his summary judgment, dissected each and every charge against Najib and gave the reasoning behind his ruling.
He started off with the offence of abusing his position where Najib as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Malaysia, allegedly used his position to commit bribery involving RM42 million through his participation or involvement in the decision to provide government guarantees for loans from the Retirement Fund Incorporated to SRC International amounting to RM4 billion.
He was charged with committing the offence at the Prime Minister’s Office, Precinct 1, Putrajaya, between Aug 17, 2011 and Feb 8, 2012.
The charge, under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 and punishable under Section 24 of the same Act, provides an imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine not less than five times the sum or value of the gratification which is the subject matter of the offence.
Mohd Nazlan said Najib had used his position as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to establish SRC International.
“Although it was stated to be a strategic natural resources development company for the country, it was in truth designed to be and did become a vehicle utilised by the accused for his own private advantage.
“This was made possible by his overarching authority in SRC International with the power to appoint and dismiss directors.
“He was the sole shareholder of the company as Minister of Finance Incorporated and also eventually became the advisor emeritus of SRC International. In other words, he established SRC International for his private interest,” he said.
On the RM4 billion loans which were approved by the Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) for SRC International, the judge said even before KWAP had decided on the matter, SRC International had written to the MOF for a government guarantee.
Mohd Nazlan said evidence showed that the cabinet paper on this was subsequently rushed in a manner which made it impossible for the government to verify information furnished by SRC International.
“The conduct and involvement of the accused in SRC International showed he had gone beyond what is expected of a Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
“It shows the existence of private and personal interest. The argument that the accused had not given any instructions or directions but merely made requests in securing the loans cannot withstand scrutiny,” he said.
Mohd Nazlan said Najib had in fact chaired the meetings, tabled the cabinet paper on the second government guarantee without disclosing or attempting to excuse himself from the deliberations.
He said it was extremely unlikely, if not impossible, for the loans to be approved if the accused was not the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister at the material time.
“Evidence also showed that SRC International was not like any other MOF Inc companies.
“Unlike the others, SRC International was under the control and direction of the accused from day one. He was the ultimate decision maker in SRC International where nothing of importance could be decided without his input,” he said.
On the three charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT), Mohd Nazlan noted that Najib was the only person empowered to appoint or dismiss any member of the board of directors in SRC International.
He said evidence showed that Najib knew the RM42 million was proceeds of an unlawful activity based on the sheer volume and frequency of money being banked into his bank accounts.
Mohd Nazlan said Najib had never lodged any police report or sued the bank after he learned of the transactions.
“In fact, the accused himself admitted having knowledge of the RM42 million originating from SRC International in an affidavit which he had prepared.
On the final three money laundering charges, Mohd Nazlan said Najib was the shadow director of SRC International and the money trail from SRC International to Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd (GMSB), to Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd (IPSB) and on to Najib’s personal bank accounts showed a clear cut case of money laundering.
“There was no reason for money to be sent to the two accounts (GMSB and IPSB) other than for layering purposes.
“There was also no valid basis for money to be taken out from the SRC International account from the first place. The accused had subsequently issued 15 personal cheques amounting to RM10.7 million after the money reached his personal accounts,” he said.
The prosecution team in Najib’s case was led by Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, who was assisted by lead deputy public prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram.
During the trial, the prosecution tendered more than 750 exhibits, including bank documents relating to Najib’s bank accounts, cash transactions, minutes of meetings and Blackberry Messenger chats over Najib’s transactions.
The witnesses included Ambank Jalan Raja Chulan branch manager R. Uma Devi, 40; Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP) former CEO Datuk Azian Mohd Noh, 66; former member of SRC board of directors Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, 54; and SRC non-executive director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin, 68.
Others were former Finance Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah, 67; former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping, 48; former finance minister II Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, 67; and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission senior assistant commissioner (Special Operations Division) Rosli Husain, 54, who is also the investigating officer.
Najib will be taking the stand on Dec 3 when the trial resumes.