KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had a genuine belief that Arab donations were the source of RM42 million in SRC International funds that were allegedly deposited in his private accounts, his lawyers maintained in the High Court today.
During oral submission at the close of the defence’s case in Najib’s corruption trial, lawyer Harvinderjit Singh argued that criminal breach of trust (CBT) required the accused to have actual knowledge of the source of the money.
He stressed that the donations had come in over a period of a few years, with Najib believing the SRC funds were also part of donations from the Saudi royal family.
“In 2014, there was a general belief that there were further Arab donations coming into the accounts.
“Because of that belief, it showed to be reasonably inferred that there was no knowledge of the RM42 million.
“There was no reasonable cause to suspect anything else that everything in the account was from donations,” he said.
Harvinderjit claimed that four purported letters from Prince Saud Abdulaziz Majid Al-Saud produced by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low between February 1, 2011 and June 1, 2014 meant that Najib was convinced that the funds totalling some RM2.6 billion were indeed donations.
He added that the said letters were also shown to the banking authorities, including then Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz and AmBank where Najib’s accounts were opened as a supporting document to justify the incoming large sum of funds.
All these instances, Harvin said, eventually formed the basis of the belief on Najib’s part that the money was indeed Arab donations.
The defence lawyer also drew attention to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) visit in November 2015 to Saudi Arabia to identify the person known as “Prince Saud” for the investigation into the authenticity of the said letters.
He then pointed out that during the visit, no denials were recorded by the three Saudi princes — Prince Turki, Prince Faisal and Prince Saud — which MACC had met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia regarding the authenticity of the letters.
“The prosecution tried to make the argument that the donations are not real at all, its letters are not real at all.
“If the letters were not genuine, there would have been denial on the spot,” he said of the visit led by MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki then with four others.
However, Harvinderjit clarified that he was not saying that the Arab donations were authentic, but given Jho Low’s influence and that the letters were produced by the fugitive businessman, which were then provided to investigating authorities which subsequently found no wrongdoing, does support Najib’s belief in the money being Arab donations.
On Najib’s testimony that he “had a sense” of the balance of the account by verifying it through his then private secretary Datuk Azlin Alias, Harvinderjit said the latter would affirm there were sufficient funds in the account for Najib to issued cheques when inquired.
He also stressed that 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 said.
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.