SRC trial judge who convicted Najib says all roads led to proverbial Rome

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex July 28, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex July 28, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — “Lacking in credibility”, “flawed”, “far-fetched”, “unsustainable”, “defying logic” and “astounding”.

Those were among the words High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali used to describe Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s defence earlier today before convicting the former prime minister on all seven charges of misappropriating RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd.

However, the most unexpected remark was when Mohd Nazlan said “all roads lead to Rome and in this case it leads to Riyadh.”

Mohd Nazlan, in reading out his two-hour-long judgment at the High Court, earlier ruled that there was no evidence that Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah had ever stated any intention to provide monetary assistance to Najib or Malaysia when both state leaders met in 2010.

The judge was referring to the defences’ argument that the Najib had genuinely thought the money in his bank accounts were “donations” from the Saudi royal family and not funds misappropriated from SRC International.

Mohd Nazlan earlier pointed out how Najib failed to take measures to verify this with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its officials bu asking them to testify in court.

It was also only after the fact that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low informed the accused of King Abdullah’s wish to donate, the judge said.

“The accused did not ask government officials, especially those in the Prime Minister’s Department, to verify with their Saudi counterparts regarding the validity of the ‘donation’.

“Regardless of (which) segment of the Arab royalty (was involved) and the accused’s confidence in Jho Low, the accused failed to confirm on the (veracity of the) donation from King Abdullah (made the defence argument) improbable,” Mohd Nazlan said in his judgment.

He also said the claim that King Abdullah had wished to make a personal donation to Najib, the leader of another country, through the latter’s personal bank account was unusual in international relations despite the professed close ties.

On the four purported Arab donation letters upon which Najib claimed to have relied, Mohd Nazlan said such a defence was unsustainable and the letters simply did not hold water.

In particular the fourth Arab donation letter, which Mohd Nazlan said cannot be the basis of any donation from King Abdullah in 2014 because Najib did not approach the Saudi monarch for further funds after returning US$620 million (RM2.63 billion) the year earlier.

“The letters took great pain to say the donation is not corruption. Yet the accused, as the prime minister of a country, did not see (that it was) prudent to check and verify (the authenticity of) the letters.

“It is very difficult to not characterise the entire Arab donation as self-serving,” Mohd Nazlan added.

Therefore, Mohd Nazlan said the defence’s contention that Najib had a bona fide belief of the purported Arab donations arriving in 2014 through the fourth Arab donation letter as being consistent with the earlier received funds during the years 2011 to 2013 does not pass muster the threshold of not only the requisite evidential support but also of the basic logic and common sense.

Mohd Nazlan earlier pointed out that there was no contact between the true donor and Najib before or after the arrival of the funds.

“Nevertheless it is manifest that evidence in the form of bank statements of the accounts of the accused point irresistibly to the true reason for the remittances, which also establishes why the funds could not have been donations.

“This is because the funds would suddenly appear ― as if on fortunate episodes of fortuity and serendipity ― in the personal accounts of the accused at the exact moment it was needed, usually when the account balance was very low.

“It is not open to dispute that the deposit of funds into the accounts of the accused had the real and immediate effect of regularizing the said accounts exactly when it was most needed. Because of that they could not have possibly come from King Abdullah,” he said.

The learned judge then described the circumstances provided by Najib as preposterous and ridiculous.

“It could not have been that the late Saudi monarch had information on, let alone was monitoring the balances in the accounts of the accused.

“In truth this is yet another series of orchestrated remittances of funds into the accused’s accounts to ensure he has the funds to enable the accused to write cheques out of his accounts,” he said.

Mohd Nazlan earlier concluded that the defence failed to raise reasonable doubt for all seven criminal charges involving abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.

Subsequent to the ruling, Mohd Nazlan then sentenced Najib to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of RM210 million for the said convictions.

Najib then obtained a stay of execution pending appeal from the High Court after the sentencing.

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