KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he never bothered to check with Wisma Putra on the authenticity of the so-called ‘donation’ from King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia which was transferred to his private bank accounts.
The former prime minister said this was because the donation was received not long after he met the late King Abdullah.
“The King spoke to me personally and he expressed his support of my leadership when I was there (in Saudi Arabia) on an official visit in Jan, 2010,” he said.
Najib also spoke of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho @ Jho Low’s role in Malaysia-Saudi Arabia relations back then.
He said Low’s close ties with Saudi royalty had cemented his trust in the fugitive businessman at the time.
“He was recognised as a middleman for the Saudi royalty. I had no reason whatsoever to doubt that the money I received was genuinely a donation.
“I must also stress here that this donation was never kept a secret. AmBank was aware of it... all the transactions and related documents were reported to Bank Negara and its then-Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz. It was never an issue then,” he said.
On the letters in his possession allegedly from the Saudi royal family, Najib said they were given to him by Low.
Stressing that he had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the letters, Najib – who was also former Finance Minister – said he was relieved that copies of the letters were also given to all the relevant authorities at that time.
“The fact that Bank Negara never raised any red flags from 2011 to 2014 also boosted my confidence that everything was in order,” he added.
Najib said he eventually decided to close all his bank accounts after King Abdullah died on Jan 23, 2015 because he knew there would not be any more funds coming in.
“It was a private arrangement between me and him, so when he died, I considered it to be the end of the funds too,” he said.
On the millions of ringgit which flowed from SRC International’s account to companies like Permai Binaraya Sdn Bhd (PBSB) and Putra Perdana Construction (PPC), before ending up in his own accounts, Najib said he was never informed of it.
“I would never have accepted the money if I knew where it was from.
“It just does not make sense and it would have been crazy of me to happily take money which originated from a Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc) company... to willingly have it banked into my personal bank accounts, of all things,” he added.
Najib said he had always believed that whatever cheques he issued were to utilise funds which had been given to him legally.
“I must stress again that I never knew the real source of the funds… that they were from SRC International, and I was never involved in transferring money out of the company,” he said.
Touching on Low’s involvement in the management of his bank accounts, Najib said he was unaware that the financier had been dealing with his bankers at AmBank, as he had never authorised the latter to do so.
“I am shocked about this.
“I just don’t know how or why the bank had dealt with someone who was never authorised to act on my behalf.”
On his bank statements, Najib said he believed these were kept by his former private secretary, the late Datuk Azlin Alias.
However, he said only during the course of the trial did he discover that Low had made arrangements to ensure that the statements would never reach him.
Najib said he was also unaware that his bank accounts were constantly overdrawn and that is why he kept issuing cheques for various purposes.
“Azlin always told me that there were adequate funds in the accounts... otherwise, I would never have issued the cheques.
“Almost all those who received the cheques were either Barisan Nasional component parties, Umno, welfare bodies or contractors who had been engaged for corporate social responsibility programmes.
“It would have been very embarrassing for me if the cheques which I issued bounced... I would never have taken such a risk.”
Najib said he had also never asked Low to top up his accounts whenever there were inadequate funds in them.
On the RM12 million which had been transferred into his accounts by Low, and a warning issued by AmBank that his accounts were being red flagged due to numerous instances of being overdrawn, Najib said he was unaware of it.
“I would never have allowed it to happen. I was then the prime minister and a known politician in the country.
“The opposition politicians would have had a field day if word ever got out that my accounts were red flagged by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) because of the RM12 million... it would have ruined my reputation.
“I pray the court will consider how irrational this whole thing is... I really did not know about it,” he added.
Najib said no one, including BNM, ever alerted him about the red flags or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) warnings on his bank accounts then.
He said AmBank was subsequently fined for compliance failures, noting that he would have been alerted if the bank had played its part.