KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho was the one who arranged meetings between former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak and then Saudi Arabia ruler King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Kuala Lumpur High Court heard on Wednesday (Dec 4).
In his testimony, Najib said that Low - better known as Jho Low - had told him that King Abdullah admired Malaysia's ability to practice moderation in Islam and equality between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The meetings between the former premier and King Abdullah took place during a series of visits to Riyadh and Jeddah.
"According to Jho Low, King Abdullah wanted to confer me with the highest civilian honour in Saudi Arabia, which was the King Abdulaziz Order of Merit (1st Class)," he said.
The award had been previously conferred on former US president Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Reading from his 243-page witness statement during examination-in-chief by lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohamad, Najib said he received the award in January 2010.
Najib added that Low then told him in mid-2010 that King Abdullah wanted to support Najib's leadership in the form of personal donations.
"From 2011 until 2014, I received a huge amount of money that I believed was a donation from King Abdullah as a sign of his support. Jho Low was the connection in the matter and I believed he arranged the donations for the Saudi royal family," he said. The Saudi king died in 2015.
Najib said that he and recipient bank AmBank received several letters about the donations, and these were in line with the donations.
Mr Wan Aizuddin: When Jho Low first raised the issue about donations, were you told how much it would be?
Najib: There was no specific amount but Jho Low said it could be between US$100 million (S$136 million) and US$200 million.
Mr Wan Aizuddin: Were you not surprised with such a huge amount?
Najib: It may seem a lot, but I know that the Saudi royal family is known for their generosity where they had donated a huge sum of money to various foundations in the US, including the Clinton Foundation, and other countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Palestine as part of their foreign relations and diplomatic policy.
Najib is facing seven charges - three for criminal breach of trust, one for abuse of power and three for money laundering involving funds of former 1Malaysia Development Berhad unit SRC International, totalling RM42 million (S$13.7 million).
The hearing continues before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali on Wednesday afternoon.