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Najib did not check account as late secretary would have confirmed if there were enough: Defence

KUALA LUMPUR (June 3): The defence concluded its submissions on the three money laundering charges faced by Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak by saying that the former premier did not check the deposits in his accounts as he thought they were Saudi Arabian donations, and that his deceased senior private secretary would have confirmed if there were enough funds or not.

Lawyer Harvinderjit Singh took one and a half hours to conclude the submissions before the prosecution, saying his client had a firm belief the money he spent was from donations as the funds had come into his accounts over a period of a few years.

Harvinderjit said to tie money laundering as illegal money from a criminal breach of trust (CBT) requires the court to be satisfied that the perpetrator had actual knowledge of the source of the money.

The former prime minister, he added, had no reasonable cause to question the source of the money, given that he thought the money was a continuation of donations from the Saudi royal family.

“The purported letters from Prince Saud gave Najib reasonable belief that these were indeed donations. These letters were shown to the authorities, including to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and then [its then] governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz who knew that the money coming in was from donations.

“Given that the authorities knew of the letters, this forms the basis of Najib's belief that they were Arab donations.”

The lawyer further explained that when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) went to Jeddah in November 2015 and met the three Arab princes, they did not deny giving the money to Najib or refuted the origin of the letters of donation.

Pinning the blame on Penang-born fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho (Jho Low), Harvinderjit said his influence and the fact that he produced copies of the letters to the investigating parties had supported his client's belief that the money was from Arab donations.

The lawyer said whenever Najib had wanted to issue cheques, he would verify them through his then private secretary Datuk Azlin Alias whether there were sufficient funds.

“It was after Azlin affirmed there was enough money in the accounts that Najib issued those cheques,” he added.

“The money was never used by Najib to buy fancy private jets or hotels, as an irresponsible person would. Azlin said 'yes, there is enough money' and Jho Low said that the Arabs were giving donations. Who would be bothered to check?" Harvinderjit emphasised.

Azlin passed away in a helicopter crash in April 2015, along with five others.

Former premier did not suspect something was amiss as ‘Jho Low actively removed cause for suspicion’

Harvinderjit reiterated that Najib was not aware of matters relating to his accounts, and nothing triggered the former premier's suspicion.

“There must be cause for suspicion first before the account owner is aware of the transactions in the accounts. It would only be considered wilful blindness if the account owner has suspicion over the activities of the accounts and turns a blind eye.

“The cause for suspicion was actively removed by Jho Low,” he claimed.

Harvinderjit said copies of the letter had been sent to the authorities, and the Arab princes did not deny their contents, hence there was no reason for Najib to lodge a police report over the RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd which entered two of his AmBank accounts.

Furthermore, then attorney-general Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali on June 26, 2016 cleared Najib of any wrongdoing, he added.

Moreover, the defence counsel said the MACC’s then chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed had even said the money was from Arab donations.

The MACC met the Arab princes in November 2015, Jho Low and former SRC director Datuk Suboh Md Yassin, and took statements from Najib in December 2015, before Mohamed Apandi cleared the former premier.

Najib is charged with three counts of money laundering of RM42 million which was deposited into two accounts with the numbers 2112022011880 and 2112022011906 at AmIslamic Bank Bhd, AmBank Group Building, 55 Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur between Dec 26, 2014 and Feb 10, 2015.

Besides this, the former premier is facing one abuse of power in relation to the RM4 billion loan given by Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) or Retirement Fund (Incorporated) (KWAP) to SRC in August 2011 and February 2012.

He also faces three counts of CBT in relation to the RM42 million.

The hearing is before High Court Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali and The Edge is carrying the proceedings live.

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