Witness says ‘under duress’ when completing SRC’s guarantee for RM2b loan

The Finance Ministry’s Strategic Investment Department deputy secretary Afidah Azwa Abdul Aziz arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex June 20, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
The Finance Ministry’s Strategic Investment Department deputy secretary Afidah Azwa Abdul Aziz arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex June 20, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — A government official testified today she was put “under duress” when she was asked to expedite the processing of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s application for the first government guarantee over a RM2 billion loan from the Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP) in 2011, the High Court heard today.

The prosecution’s 41st witness, Finance Ministry’s Strategic Investment Department deputy secretary Afidah Azwa Abdul Aziz affirmed this during cross-examination by Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

Afidah Azwa previously testified in Najib’s trial that she was instructed by her superior, Maliami Hamad, to meet with SRC International’s representative chief executive Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, Zahid Taib and two unidentified individuals.

She told the court she had to prepare an internal memo and a Cabinet memorandum over the matter on August 15, 2011 to be included into a Cabinet meeting taking place on August 17, 2011.

Muhammad Shafee: I am suggesting that you were not urged but told to speed up the process.

Afidah Azwa: I was urged.

Muhammad Shafee: This means more than speeding up.

Afidah: I worked under duress.

Shafee: The person who put that on you was Maliami?

Afidah: Yes.

Shafee: He is no longer your superior?

Afidah: No.

Her superior Maliami answered to then Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s defence lawyers, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Harvinderjit Singh, are seen at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex June 20, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s defence lawyers, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Harvinderjit Singh, are seen at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex June 20, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Muhammad Shafee then asked Afidah Azwa to translate the word “duress” into Malay which she used to determine if she truly understood the meaning.

He then pointed out to her that “duress” here meant negatively pressured and not the other way around as Afidah Azwa remained silent.

While Afidah Azwa continued to remain silent, Muhammad Shafee in a light-hearted moment tells her to not be afraid of his questions.

“Do not fear my questions. I am not fierce. I am a very polite cross-examiner,” he said to the amusement of the court.

Afidah Azwa also said she did not make a record of any complaints over the issue despite having reservations and suspicions at the early stage when she was asked to expedite the process.

This is despite her agreeing to Muhammad Shafee’s suggestion that parts of her witness statement implied she was unsatisfied over the documentation process.

She had complained about it to Maliami but it all fell on deaf ears.

Muhammad Shafee : Madam, you made the statement as if you are not satisfied with the documentation wanted from you. Madam, did you hint it in your written statement over expediting the matter.

Afidah Azwa: Yes.

Muhammad Shafee : If I say the matter is to be expedited but you are not forced to complete it.

Afidah Azwa: I was pressured.

Muhammad Shafee: Were there any doubts? Or none. Just told to do? Was there any suspicion?

Afidah Azwa: In the beginning, yes.

Muhammad Shafee: Feelings of doubts? Suspicious? Maybe the bad intention of the people requesting?

Afidah Azwa: Felt doubtful.

Muhammad Shafee: What are the doubts? Doubts about what?

Afidah Azwa: Why the need to expedite.

She then explained where she sat down with SRC International’s chief executive Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, company representative Zahid Taib as well as two others at her office, and typed out what they told her about the company after being instructed by Maliami to do so.

“I have to trust what Nik Faisal told me on that day about the company, and put whatever information he gave into the document drafts,” Afidah said.

Yesterday she testified that apart from being given the government guarantees for the two loans in an unusually quick fashion in 2011 and 2012, SRC International also managed to obtain an additional RM642 million short term loan from the government after it defaulted on repaying KWAP beginning 2015.

During the course of the trial, witnesses have testified that KWAP granted a total of RM4 billion in loans in August 2011 and March 2012 to SRC International, with money allegedly flowing through other companies before being transferred into Najib’s accounts.

Afidah Azwa is the 41st prosecution witness of Najib’s ongoing trial involving seven charges of abuse of position, criminal breach of trust and money-laundering over RM42 million of SRC International’s funds.