Judge says former Malaysian PM Najib Razak has a case to answer in 1MDB corruption trial

Former prime minister Najib Razak arrives for his trial at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 11, 2019.
Former prime minister Najib Razak arrives for his trial at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 11, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak will have to defend himself against allegations of abuse of power and money laundering in the misappropriation of RM42 million ($13.8 million) from former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) subsidiary – SRC International.

Najib will have to take the stand after his lawyers failed to obtain an acquittal for the former chief of the Barisan Nasional coalition. He is facing one count of abuse of power, three counts of money laundering and three counts of criminal breach of trust. 

Delivering his decision on Monday (Nov 11), High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said the former prime minister will have to enter his defence after the prosecution established a prima facie case.

“The accused had interest in SRC, where he had total control, resulting in RM42 million being deposited into his accounts, which is a result of gratification,” said the judge.

“It is for the accused to rebut the evidence,” the judge added, stating that the former premier had wielded enormous influence over SRC International when he was prime minister. 

The judge said Najib could remain silent, make an unsworn statement from the dock or make a sworn statement from the witness stand. 

The former prime minister picked the third option. He will be called to testify when the trial proceeds on Dec 3. 

The court had from July 4 heard testimonies from 57 witnesses in the closely-watched SRC trial.

During the hearing, the prosecution argued that Najib, who was also finance minister, knew that the RM42 million deposited into his private accounts came from SRC International. 

Although he had claimed to be in “shock” at seeing the huge sum of money in the accounts, the prosecution noted he did not lodge a police report.

 
 

Najib’s lawyers countered, saying the former premier was not dishonest and was unaware the money had come via illicit methods. 

SRC International was a subsidiary of 1MDB before it was placed directly under the purview of the finance ministry. 

Founded in 2011, the private firm was listed as being involved in the energy sector before it transformed from a company with paid-up capital of RM2 to one with a paid-up capital of RM1 million, with 1MDB as the majority shareholder. 

In 2012, the finance ministry took control of SRC International. 

During the hearing to determine if the former prime minister had a case to answer to, it was revealed that Najib had final say in the company after appointing himself as the firm’s adviser emeritus. 

SRC International obtained, in total, RM4 billion in loans from the civil servants pension fund – Retirement Fund Incorporated (Kwap) – in 2011 and 2012 with the government acting as the guarantor. 

The court heard that Najib had sought approval for the loans during Cabinet meetings. 

A portion of the approved sum later flowed into Najib’s accounts and was allegedly used for various purposes. 

Of the RM42 million that was transferred into Najib’s bank accounts, RM3.3 million was allegedly used to pay off credit card bills in 2014 for jewellery and designer store purchases. Money also allegedly went to political parties.

A portion was also said to have been used to pay for Najib’s home renovations, a news portal and his Facebook page, among other things. 

 

During the hearing, witnesses testified that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, otherwise known as Jho Low, played an important role by dealing with the banks himself. 

He also allegedly communicated directly with bank managers to resolve issues the former prime minister faced over overdrawn sums from the cards Najib used. 

In a separate, ongoing trial, Najib faces another 25 charges over receiving RM2.3 billion of 1MDB funds, . He has a total of five court cases involving the now-defunct state fund, spanning 42 criminal charges covering offences such as corruption and money laundering.