KUALA LUMPUR: A new twist emerged at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s corruption trial today when a defence witness disputed claims that the former prime minister was seeking financial aid from the Saudis to finance the 2013 general election.
Former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman when testifying today said it was the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia who had offered a financial donation to Najib’s administration.
Anifah said Najib also had asked him for his views on receiving the donation via a personal bank account.
It was earlier reported that a former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, had testified that the Najib’s administration had sought financial aid from Saudi Arabia during an official visit to Riyadh.
Jamil Khir, who was the fifth defence witness, said King Abdullah, who conversed in Arabic, promised to transfer the aid directly to Najib’s account as the former did not know how a political organisation spent its funds.
Anifah was the sixth defence witness testifying in Najib’s SRC International Bhd trial, where the former prime minister is accused of misappropriating RM42 million of the company funds.
In his witness statement, Anifah said the event transpired during an unofficial meeting between Malaysian delegates, led by Najib, and King Abdullah at the latter’s palace 10 years ago.
“The unofficial meeting took place during Najib’s official visit to Saudi Arabia which was set between Jan 13 and Jan 16.
“As we were exiting King Abdullah’s palace, Najib had sought for clarification from Jamil Khir regarding the confidential dialogue between himself and King Abdullah.
“Najib asked whether he was correct in understanding that King Abdullah preferred the financial donation and monies to be transferred to his (Najib) personal bank account,” he said.
Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah during the examination-in-chief then asked Anifah to describe the situation.
Shafee: Can you describe whether the financial assistance from King Abdullah was offered or a request from Najib?
Anifah: From my understanding, it was the King who offered (to provide financial aid)... but this is from my observation.
Anifah said Najib then had asked him for his opinion on the financial donation being transferred to his bank account, to which Anifah assured him that it was acceptable since it would be used for corporate social responsibility and political purposes.
“It has been a common practice in Umno for the president of the party to be personally in charge of most of the political funds.
“King Abdullah was an ardent supporter of Najib as the former was impressed with the Malaysian government’s ability to maintain Malaysia as a moderate Muslim country.
“On this basis, the financial aid was meant to consolidate the government’s stability further and therefore prevent the unhealthy influence of extremism,” he said.
Later when asked by lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram on why the donation was carried out without discussions in the Cabinet, Anifah said it was due to the monies being regarded as a ‘personal donation’.
Anifah said King Abdullah did not want his contribution to be vaguely disbursed, which may pose some problems.
“Putting the money in the prime minister’s account would bring about easier control,” he said.
Sithambaram then diverted his questions on the purchase of a luxury watch worth US$130,625 (RM466,330.11) by Najib for his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, purportedly using monies from the same donation.
Sithambaram: Would it be right to buy a watch worth about half a million?
Anifah: I am shocked by your question.
Sithambaram: Purchased almost RM500,000 watch, would that be right?
Anifah: … Of course not.
Earlier in the morning, Anifah said King Abdullah had wanted to gift Najib an Arabian stallion but the latter declined.
He said as they were leaving King Abdullah’s palace, Najib had observed and admired paintings of Arabian st
allions that were in the walkway of the palace.
“He (Najib) commented on the beauty of the Arabian horses and King Abdullah took heed of his comment before he offered the former prime minister one of the many prized stallions in his possession.
“Najib, however, politely declined the offer as he does not ride horses,” he said.
The former Kimanis member of parliament said such an offer was a manifestation of the close relations between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.
Najib, 66, is facing seven charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering involving RM42 million of SRC International funds.
He faces 20 years’ jail if found guilty of the offences.
The trial continues on Monday.