KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — The former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today stood by his claim and testified in the High Court that multiple transactions amounting to RM3.2 billion from 2011 to 2013 were Saudi royal family donations.
Najib, testifying as the first defence witness of his RM42 million SRC International corruption trial, said he believed the funds, which originated from senders identified as Prince Faisal Turki, Blackstone Real Estate Partner, and Tanore Finance Corp, were part of donations from Saudi monarch King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
A total of 23 transactions that were made into AmBank current account ending-694 were read out in court today; US99.9 million dollars or RM 304 million transferred in 2011; US269.9 million dollars or RM831.9 million in 2012, and US680.9 million or RM2.08 billion in 2013.
Najib testified that supporting documents of the donations were shown to him by his former special officer Datuk Azlin Alias, who said the documents originated from fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low.
“I was made to understand that the letters were also forwarded to AmBank by Jho Low and the matter was also reported BNM (Bank Negara Malaysia) and Tan Sri Zeti (Akhtar Aziz) during the material time,” he testified.
Testifying on the 2013 donations, Najib said as the Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, he was mandated to collect donations to be spent on election machinery in anticipation of a general election.
“It is the practice that has been done by past party presidents and chairmen.
“I used a portion of the donations for CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives and to fund the elections expenses to ensure Barisan Nasional would remain as the ruling government,” he testified when reading from his witness statement.
Najib said King Abdullah made the donations as the latter knew it was election year in 2013, and it was as if His Highness did not want the Arab Spring to spread to Malaysia since he saw Malaysia as an exemplary Muslim country.
As for donations received in 2011 and 2012, Najib said he spend the money on CSR initiatives.
Najib then testified that in July 2013, he was informed of an account balance of around RM2.1 billion from the total donations, to which he said was more than what he had planned on using.
“I also felt uncomfortable having so much money in my account as I was worried that is such information was leaked, it would definitely be manipulated out of context politically.
“Therefore, I decided to return almost all of the unspent donations and only kept a portion of it,” he said, adding it was a gesture of goodwill in return to the Saudi royal family.
In total, around RM2.02 billion (US$620 million) was returned to Tanore Finance Corp, while RM162 million was then transferred into another bank account which he opened in August 2013.
However, he testified that all the original documents of the donations remained in his former office in the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya.
Concerning communications between Jho Low and AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu, Najib said he had never personally contacted Low over the specific transactions, and was periodically informed of his banking details by his aide Azlin.
“I do not understand why the bank did not deal directly with Datuk Azlin or Nik Faisal (Ariff Kamil) concerning this matter,” he said, referring to the authorised account mandate holder.
Of the seven charges he was asked to enter his defence, Najib is accused of committing three counts of criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, and a separate charge of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum.
For the remaining three charges, he is accused of laundering RM42 million.
The trial continues on Monday before High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.