KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A businessman had threatened to expose the role of former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor in a controversial Sarawak solar hybrid project to the then Opposition, the High Court heard during Rosmah's corruption trial on Monday (Feb 17).
Former education ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad, who is the sixth prosecution witness for Rosmah's trial, said that Mr Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah, business partner of Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, had told her this to ensure she helped him obtain the contract for the solar hybrid project from Mr Saidi.
Prosecutors allege that Rosmah pocketed RM6.5 million (S$2.18 million) for helping Jepak Holdings secure the project to provide solar power generators to schools in Sarawak state when Najib was in office.
The 68-year-old is also accused of soliciting a further RM187.5 million from Mr Saidi, who was then managing director of Jepak Holdings.
Rosmah faces three counts of corruption for the offences, which allegedly took place in 2016 and 2017. She has denied all the charges.
"Between Oct or Nov 2017 and May 2018, Rayyan had bombarded me with messages on WhatsApp, until I started to ignore the messages (due to the volume)," said Dr Madinah.
"From the messages, I found that Rayyan has had a misunderstanding with Saidi and was was trying to snatch the contract for the solar hybrid project from Saidi," she said.
She added that Mr Rayyan also claimed that Mr Saidi had done several fraudulent actions in relation to the contract, such as changing the original terms for the contract and filing false claims.
"The reason (I think) Rayyan was telling me all this was that he wanted my help to meet the prime minister to snatch the contract from Saidi and Jepak Holdings.
"Rayyan said that he will reveal the involvement of the prime minister and 'ma'am' (Rosmah) in relation to the acquisition of the solar hybrid project contract to the (then) Opposition if I didn't help him," she said.
She added that she did not entertain Mr Rayyan's messages.
The court also heard that Dr Madinah, as Auditor-General, had in 2018 asked her officers to audit the payments that the Education Ministry had made to Jepak Holdings based on the messages Mr Rayyan sent her previously.
Dr Madinah said the Education Ministry would not have approved the solar hybrid project application if not for Najib's minutes on June 7,2016.
She said this was because Jepak did not give a breakdown of the costing, details of its work scope as well as not having a certified consultant appointed by the company for the project.
Dr Madinah added that there was no urgent need by the Education Ministry to speed up the contractual process of the solar hybrid project.
"This solar hybrid project was never in the development plans of the Education Ministry before this.
"The Education Ministry's plans to supply electricity were through the diesel genset project and by connecting to the electrical grid lines," she said as she read her witness statement.
Dr Madinah also said that the solar hybrid project proposed by Jepak Holdings was a high-risk project and should be implemented with care.
The court also heard that Dr Madinah was baffled why Najib wanted to implement the solar hybrid project in a hurry when it did not have thorough planning.
Dr Madinah testified that while working under Najib's leadership, she found him to be a visionary, forward-looking leader, and smart.
"Najib was always mindful about the costs and needs for the execution of any project.
"He always reminded all the secretaries-general to ensure that all applications for the projects were 'cangkul ready'.
"This means, among others, the allocation that has been provided, the planning that was made, and the project was ready to be executed," she told the court.
However, Dr Madinah said she did not know why Najib released additional directives to implement the solar hybrid project that involved such a high cost, big scale, and high risk to be done in a hurry without detailed planning and thorough research or even have a discussion with the Education Ministry first.
The court also heard that former education minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid had complained to Dr Madinah on the pressure that he faced from Najib.
Dr Madinah said Datuk Seri Mahdzir had complained that Najib was upset that the solar hybrid project seemed like it was delayed.
"Mahdzir once told me to just pass the direct negotiation application directly to Najib for his approval as the Finance Minister," she said.
Dr Madinah added that the minutes by Najib on Dec 1,2015, to June 7,2016, had also pressured Mr Mahdzir including the financial implications and legal problems that the Education Ministry would face if they had cancelled the diesel genset contracts in return for the solar hybrid project.
"Based on my experience, the solar hybrid project implementation based on the scope that was suggested by Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd required detailed planning to ensure the effective implementation.
"If the solar hybrid project was implemented in a rush, it would face complications during implementation, increase the risk of failure and cause losses and wastage of money," she said.