Najib had full control over funds in former 1MDB company, court hears in appeal

Former prime minister Najib Razak is appealing his conviction on three charges each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering.
Former prime minister Najib Razak is appealing his conviction on three charges each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Former prime minister Najib Razak utilised funds from a subsidiary of state-owned 1MDB as though they were his own, and the RM42 million (S$13.6 million) involved was a trivial sum to him, Malaysia's Court of Appeal heard on Wednesday (April 14).

In his submission before a three-member bench led by Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, prosecutor V Sithambaram said Najib had absolute power over SRC International - a company that dealt in energy resources - and the power to hire and fire directors.

The former premier is appealing against his conviction on three charges each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering, and one of abuse of power in the case. On July 28, 2020, he was sentenced to 12 years' jail and a RM210 million fine.

This is one of several trials he faces over allegations that US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund he co-founded in 2009.

"In this case, Najib had full control over the company (SRC) and whenever he needed money, he took it. My Lord, earlier, he had taken RM2.6 billion, this is just a 'kacang' (peanuts) for him," Datuk Sithambaram said.

Najib testified last year that he had received RM2.6 billion in donations from the Saudi royal family, between 2011 and 2014.

The prosecutor noted that SRC's Constitution stipulated that Najib's approval had to be sought for key decisions, such as the appointment of directors, which contradicted the position taken by his legal team that he had no control over the company.

On Tuesday, Najib's lawyers wrapped up their six-day submission, in which they claimed that their client had no pecuniary interest in SRC International.

The defence has claimed selective prosecution, as only Najib was tried among several implicated, and that an unfair trial judge wanted a scapegoat.

"There appears to be a desire to hold the accused to account. The judge was motivated to hold the accused to account.

"The criminal law is not the proper avenue for the accused to be held to account, as the accused was already held to account during the (14th) general election," Najib's counsel Farhan Read said on Tuesday.

The defence said the judge's finding that Najib had "conduct and control" over the SRC in itself was not enough to show he had a pecuniary interest in the company.

Najib, who is the Pekan MP, remains free pending his appeal.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said he had "rushed" everyone at SRC to obtain a RM4 billion loan from the public employees' pension fund, Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP), in 2011 and 2012 for SRC to carry out and invest in projects associated with conventional and renewable energy resources, natural resources and minerals.

Najib was found guilty of abusing his power as the prime minister by giving government guarantees on the loan.

"However, for the next six or seven years, nothing happened. In fact, Najib never received or asked for any board minutes or annual general meeting reports," Mr Sithambaram said, noting that the two government guarantees were never tabled in Parliament.

Due to the position he held, the prosecution said Najib had an interest in SRC when he chaired the Cabinet meetings to approve the two guarantees and acted as the "controlling mind" of the company in his capacity as the then Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Adviser Emeritus.