Najib Razak's home renovation works in trial spotlight

Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday for a trial linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday for a trial linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Accounts possibly linked to Najib, ex-1MDB unit issued $10m in cheques, court hears

The trial of former premier Najib Razak - linked to scandal-tainted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) - wrapped up its fifth day yesterday, with the court mainly hearing details about bank accounts and raids conducted.

The court perked up when a bank official testified that bank accounts suspected to be linked to Najib and SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, had issued cheques worth RM30 million (S$10 million) to several recipients, including state branches of Najib's Umno party.

There were also testimonies from an employee of an interior design firm and a specialist plumber who said their companies received cheques for carrying out home renovation projects at Najib's residence.

The two companies were among 15 recipients of cheques totalling over RM10.77 million issued under two AmIslamic Bank accounts registered under Najib's name, according to court documents.

The interior design firm employee said that he received a RM100,000 cheque for installing a sink, kitchen cabinets and a storeroom with two clothing racks in 2014 at Najib's house. He also repaired a police sentry unit.

The plumber said the company received a RM56,500 cheque after building a water tank and adding a pump to resolve plumbing issues as Najib's house was on a hill.

Seven witnesses have so far been called to give their testimony.

 
 
 
 

The ongoing trial is about corruption and abuse of power involving SRC International, which is a Finance Ministry company.

Najib, 65, faces three counts of criminal breach of trust, one charge of abuse of power, and three counts of money laundering involving RM42 million from SRC International, from when he was both prime minister and finance minister.

His lawyer Shafee Abdullah on Wednesday appeared to be trying to peg businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, as the mastermind behind the web of money laundering and fraud that is believed to have taken place using 1MDB monies. 1MDB too was a company parked under the Finance Ministry.

"Is he (Najib) a victim rather than a proprietor - this is the issue. Is he a victim himself?" Mr Shafee said. "I dare tell you that he is a victim of conspiracy of Jho Low and gang," the lawyer told reporters.

Low, 37, allegedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars using 1MDB funds to buy a superyacht, expensive art and prime real estate in the United States and Britain, and to host lavish parties in Hollywood.

He is believed to be hiding in China, but the China Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian yesterday said that the authorities there had failed to find him.

Low reportedly became associated with Najib via his stepson Riza Aziz, a Hollywood producer who financed the movie, The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Bank Negara Malaysia officers took the stand earlier this week, over their involvement in the 2015 seizure of documents from local banks AmBank and Affin Bank.

The trial continues on Monday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Najib's home renovation works in trial spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe