Najib's corruption trial: Key witness says he hid abroad in fear

KUALA LUMPUR • A key witness in the corruption trial of former premier Najib Razak said he hid in fear in Bangkok and Abu Dhabi in 2015, after he was told to go abroad and not meet officers of the anti-graft agency.

Datuk Suboh Md Yassin, 68, a former director of SRC International, said he had initially contacted the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to explain the situation in the government-owned company which anti-graft officers were investigating.

But before he had a chance to visit the MACC, he received a phone call from an anonymous person who introduced himself as a representative of the commission, he said.

"The caller told me not to go to MACC's office and ordered me to leave Malaysia," Mr Suboh told the Malaysian High Court yesterday.

"I was fearful of what was happening and because Datuk Seri Najib Razak was in power as the prime minister at that time.

"I did not know what would happen to me or my family, so I made the decision to run away to Bangkok, Thailand, with my wife for a month," he said, adding that he paid for the trip himself.

Mr Suboh was reading from his witness statement at the trial of former prime minister Najib, who faces seven charges relating to misappropriation of RM42 million (S$13.8 million) in SRC funds.

 
 
 

Media reports said he was put on a government witness protection programme after returning to Malaysia.

Mr Suboh's testimony is being closely watched as he had been appointed by Najib as a director of SRC in 2001, and could thus shed light on the goings-on in the company. SRC was then a subsidiary of the scandal-tainted state fund 1MDB. Mr Suboh was also director at SRC's subsidiary Gandingan Mentari.

Malaysiakini online news reported that the court heard in the last few weeks how Gandingan Mentari had transferred millions of ringgit to a company called Ihsan Perdana, which in turn moved some of the funds to AmBank Islamic accounts held by Najib.

Mr Suboh's name was raised by several witnesses in the trial, the first time that a former Malaysian prime minister has been charged with a criminal offence.

Mr Suboh, in his testimony, said that while in Bangkok, he met a Thai man who gave him plane tickets to go to Abu Dhabi with his wife.

"My wife and I took the flight to Abu Dhabi from Bangkok," he said.

"In Abu Dhabi, an Arab man waited for me at the airport. We were taken to the Rosewood Hotel and stayed there for about a week.

"The flight and accommodation were arranged," he said, but he did not know who paid the bills.

Mr Suboh said after about a week, he boarded a flight back to Bangkok and subsequently to Malaysia.

"After I returned, I was contacted by former (then) SRC CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, who ordered me to run away again from Malaysia to avoid investigation by the authorities. However, I decided not to run and stay in Malaysia to assist the investigation," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2019, with the headline 'Najib's corruption trial: Key witness says he hid abroad in fear'. Print Edition | Subscribe