Witness: Najib gave broad ideas for 1MDB-funded CSR, could WhatsApp him

Former Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd (IPSB) managing director, Datuk Dr Shamsul Anwar Sulaiman, leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex May 28, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Former Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd (IPSB) managing director, Datuk Dr Shamsul Anwar Sulaiman, leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex May 28, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak personally gave ideas for corporate social responsibility projects to be carried out by Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd using funds provided by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M), a witness told the High Court today.

Datuk Dr Shamsul Anwar Sulaiman, managing director of Ihsan Perdana, said he was called to have discussions on CSR project ideas with the then prime minister at several places, including the latter’s home.

“Please help me to do this, I have an idea, help Orang Asli; fishermen; poor people; people to go to haji,” Dr Shamsul said, recounting the comments Najib shared with him.

According to Dr Shamsul, Ihsan Perdana’s CSR programmes were wide-ranging, from funding pilgrimage trips for Muslims who had been of service to their local community to providing water supply and sanitary facilities to the Orang Asli in rural areas.

Dr Shamsul is the 37th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds.

When asked by Najib’s lawyer Harvinderjit Singh, Dr Shamsul confirmed that Najib would give a “big picture” of what CSR projects could be done.

“Yes, just giving an idea. Sometimes idea comes to myself and I propose to him, whether he liked it or not,” he said.

Dr Shamsul confirmed he could easily contact Najib then.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex May 28, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex May 28, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Harvinderjit noted that Najib was prime minister at that time, and said he wanted to gauge the level of communication that Dr Shamsul had with Najib, asking: “You could pick up the phone and send WhatsApp if needed?”

Dr Shamsul then replied in the affirmative, also confirming that the lines of communication with Najib was always “open” and that Najib was always approachable.

Dr Shamsul later confirmed that the discussions he had with Najib revolved around existing CSR projects and plans for future CSR projects, but the discussions did not touch on grant funds given by 1MDB and YR1M.

Under cross-examination by Harvinderjit, Dr Shamsul today confirmed that he had took a shelf company named Gem Horizon Sdn Bhd and renamed it as Ihsan Perdana to conduct CSR activities.

Dr Shamsul said he had done so, as the then 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi had instructed him to start an independent vehicle to run 1MDB’s CSR activities and that such instructions did not come from Najib.

Dr Shamsul said the independent company to conduct 1MDB’s CSR activities was necessary for purposes such as transparency and manpower and to avoid conflict of interest, as the work was initially done by himself as a 1MDB executive director without any additional staff and with funds given to him for the initial small CSR projects such as repairs to poor villagers’ houses.

After Ihsan Perdana was formed, the company had a headcount of 22 persons manning sections such as the finance department and projects department, while funds received were split into bank accounts with specific purposes of CSR projects and operating expenditure and with finances audited yearly, he had said.

Dr Shamsul had previously testified that Ihsan Perdana was contracted to do CSR work as instructed by Yayasan 1MDB and Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia, and had said both respectively gave RM20 million grants annually for CSR programmes in Malay and non-Malay areas won by Umno or Barisan Nasional.

Dr Shamsul today noted that Yayasan 1MDB did not carry out CSR activities as it lacked the capacity including manpower to do so, also confirming that 1MDB had a CSR department which disbursed grants and which he liased with for works carried out.

When asked about Ihsan Perdana’s CSR programmes, Dr Shamsul today said such activities were not only done in BN areas, but also in states that were then governed by the federal opposition such as Kelantan and Penang.

Dr Shamsul today confirmed that millions of ringgit entered into Ihsan Perdana’s account from September 2014 to April 2015 from sources that he had not known, including RM42 million that he was asked by YR1M officials to transfer to two accounts that he had not known then belonged to Najib.

When asked if he had received any “communication” from Najib regarding the transfers totalling RM42 million to the two accounts now known to be registered under Najib’s name, Dr Shamsul replied in the negative.

Harvinderjit then asked if Dr Shamsul would have called Najib if he knew the accounts were under the latter’s name, with the Ihsan Perdana official replying: “Yes, because I want to know why.”

Dr Shamsul said YR1M project director Dennis See had asked to “borrow” Ihsan Perdana’s account for the purposes of transferring funds to other accounts, and that See and YR1M official Ung Su Ling had asked him to make the transfers totalling RM42 million.

Dr Shamsul confirmed multiple other fund transfers were done on the YR1M official’s instructions including to Mail Global Resources, Tan Sri Tazri Talib and Redzuan Adam Shah.

Dr Shamsul said he felt he had to follow See’s and Ung’s instructions as they were Ihsan Perdana’s CSR project funders.

“I had discussion, why us? We are doing CSR projects, why do you want to borrow our account? He said he just follow instructions as well, so he gave instructions, I followed his,” he said, referring to See.

Dr Shamsul later said it was his “impression” that both See and Ung were following instructions over the RM42 million fund transfers, confirming that he based this on their demeanour.

When asked about his previous testimony of his opinion that the two YR1M officials possibly receiving instructions from Najib’s then private secretary Datuk Azlin Alias, Dr Shamsul confirmed that this was based on Azlin’s position as the duo’s boss in YR1M.