Najib: I took Saudi donations so I don't have to owe corporate donors anything

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 4): Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said he had accepted a portion of the donations from the Saudi royal family between 2011 and 2014 as he did not want to rely on corporate donations to fund his party's election machinery.

Najib said as former Umno president in that time frame leading up to the 13th General Election in 2013, which his coalition Barisan Nasional won by a simple majority, he wanted a source of income that would make him independent of corporate donors, so that he would not "have any IOU with anyone".

"I don't want the sense of owing gratitude to anyone. The donation could fulfil the requirement of our party. It doesn't include vote buying but includes the events that we hold, and the billboards, for example.

"It was important and it was a sense of relief that I could call on this source of donation as opposed to corporate figures, which I admit had been the practice. I wasn't doing anything different from what my predecessors did," Najib testified in court this morning during re-examination by defence lawyer Harvinderjit Singh.

The former premier also explained that he disagreed to the prosecution's suggestion that he was vote-buying because the money was used to support the heavy requirements of Barisan Nasional as a party.

Najib received a donation of US$800 million from Saudi ruler King Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz Al-Saud through a series of transactions from Tanore Finance Corp into his AmBank account in early 2013. In July of the same year, he had returned an unused amount of US$620 million.

Harvinderjit asked Najib to clarify what had transpired that led to him returning the portion of unused donations from the Saudi royal family, to which Najib responded by saying that the general election was just completed and that the funds received were specifically to ensure the continuity of the government at the time.

Najib: I wasn't comfortable with such a large sum lying in the account. I decided to do a good and sincere gesture to return the money. The issue of confidentiality would arise and I didn't want this to be known outside because of sensitivities.

Harvinderjit: Wait, you said you don't want people to find out? Why is that?

Najib: So there will not be misconceptions about this. The Saudis support other governments around the world and they continue to do so. There was nothing that was out of context.

Najib was testifying at his SRC International Sdn Bhd trial, where he faces seven counts of abuse of power, money laundering and corruption involving RM42 million taken from the company.

The Edge is reporting the proceedings of the SRC trial live.

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