SRC trial: As then finance minister, Najib cannot say he could not manage own bank accounts — prosecution

KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 23): The prosecution in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s SRC International Sdn Bhd graft trial involving RM42 million of the company’s funds has shot down the rationale that he could not manage his own bank accounts, given he was also then finance minister in charge of the nation’s finances.

During oral submissions yesterday, appointed public prosecutor Datuk V Sithambaram said the basic fact is that “all cheques issued out of accounts 906 and 898 were issued personally” by Najib. 

“To take the money out, you must know the account has money. Najib cannot say he cannot manage his own account, considering he was the finance minister, managing the finances of the whole country,” he argued.

“It is more so that you should ensure that everything was properly accounted for.”

The lawyer also dismissed Najib’s alleged shock at learning that RM42 million had entered his accounts as “drama”, because the former premier never lodged a police report or sued the bank for the deposit.

“[The accused] won't be issuing cheque after cheque, unless you knew someone was managing the account… unless he believes that the money in his account grow on trees,” Sithambaram said.

The onus is on Najib, as owner of the AmBank accounts receiving the sums, to tell the authorities that the monies had been wrongly deposited into his account upon learning about the matter, the lawyer continued.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Tommy Thomas said it was the former premier’s responsibility to ensure his accounts did not hold proceeds from unlawful activities.

“For someone who said I don’t know what is happening to my account, Father Christmas credited into my account… For someone who earned less than RM1 million per year, received RM42 million, spent it on plenty of cheques, never questioned his bank, never sued his bank, his defence must be called,” he added. 

The prosecution also argued Najib played a key role in all parts of the transaction that led to his receipt of the RM42 million.

“It was all going to the direction of money trails, monies coming in with the help of the accused, and monies going out with the direction of the accused… and entering his personal account,” Sithambaram said.

In total, Najib, 66, faces seven criminal charges in the SRC trial, namely:

i) one count of abuse of power under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 for his involvement in the issuance of government guarantees for SRC’s two RM2 billion loans from KWAP in exchange for RM42 million;

ii) Three counts under Section 409 of the Penal Code for committing criminal breach of trust over the same RM42 million as and agent of SRC — namely as PM, finance minister and Advisor Emeritus, and

iii) three counts of money laundering under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorsim Financing and Proceeds Act 2011 by receiving that same RM42 million across three transactions into his personal bank accounts. 

Defence: No conflict of interest, abuse of power

Defence counsel Harvinderjit Singh argued that Najib — as PM, finance minister, and advisor emeritus — played no role in SRC’s operational affairs, nor did the SRC board of directors acted blindly on the instructions of Najib. 

Furthermore, the investigation officer Rosli Hussain admitted there were other probable causes of the movement of funds from SRC accounts, namely the alleged disbursement of RM290 million to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho.

Harvinderjit added that he failed to understand the implications of the power to hire and fire the directors on the board, as that power would lie with the shareholders of all companies. 

“If the plan all along was to heist, why not put people who did not know what they were doing… then take the money. That is not what was happening,” he said.

The defence also maintained that Najib was not aware of the transfer of funds out of SRC or into his personal accounts at that time.

Moreover, his counsel also argued the RM42 million is not ‘gratification’ for Najib to use his position.

This is because there is no corrupt arrangement in the issuance of the government guarantees to the RM4 billion loans, and the prosecution established no nexus between the KWAP loan government guarantees and the RM42 million transferred to Najib in 2014/2015.

There were inferences in the transactions involving the RM42 million without Najib’s knowledge, which were done at the behest of others for their benefit, the defence argued. 

It also argued that Najib had no personal interest in SRC and was instead acting as PM (for the Government of Malaysia), Minister of Finance (head of Minister of Finance Inc — the ultimate parent of SRC), and the adviser emeritus of SRC.

There is no conflict of interest in Najib's roles as both the Government of Malaysia, and MoF Inc (SRC's shareholder) are public bodies, it added. 

The trial continues at 9am today.

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