Najib's trial: Ex-minister explains why donation offer not reported

Malaysia's former foreign minister Anifah Aman testified in court yesterday that the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had offered a private donation to former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. This happened after an informal meeting King Abdullah had in Riyadh with Malaysian delegates on Jan 11, 2010.

Najib is on trial for allegedly misappropriating RM42 million (S$14 million) from SRC International, a former 1Malaysia Development Berhad subsidiary. The sum originated from a RM4 billion loan provided by the civil servants' pension fund, Retirement Fund (Incorporated).

The former prime minister has maintained that multiple transactions amounting to RM3.2 billion transferred into his personal accounts were Saudi donations. This includes the RM42 million from SRC International, he claims.

Datuk Seri Anifah is the second minister in Najib's former Cabinet to be produced as a witness to support the defence's claim that the Saudi royal family had donated millions to help Najib win the 2013 general election.

Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, a former minister in the Prime Minister's Department, testified on Tuesday.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Anifah said: "As we were exiting, the prime minister (Najib) sought clarification from Jamil Khir regarding the confidential dialogue between him and King Abdullah as to whether he was correct in understanding that King Abdullah preferred the financial donation the King was making be transferred to Najib's personal bank account."

The offer, Najib had claimed earlier, was made during a private chat the former Malaysia leader had with King Abdullah.

Mr Anifah admitted that he was not present during the private discussions. While he agreed that a meeting of government officials is considered an official event, he did not see the need to report the donation offer to the Cabinet because "it was a personal donation".

When asked about fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, Mr Anifah said he was unaware of Low's influence or ties with the Saudi royals.

Najib had previously testified in court that Low was "a conduit of the (Saudi) royal family".

Earlier this week, Mr Jamil Khir said it was Najib who had requested the donation from Saudi Arabia, with the item listed in the meeting's discussion points.

Najib is facing seven charges - three for criminal breach of trust, one for abuse of power and three for money laundering involving the RM42 million.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'Why donation offer not reported: Ex-minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe