Trial witness: Najib claimed Saudi prince ‘donated’ to 1MDB’s charity arm, told Cabinet not to disclose donation

Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court  February 10, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 10, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister had claimed to the Cabinet in 2010 that the late Saudi crown prince had donated to 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s charity arm Yayasan 1Malaysia Development Berhad (Yayasan 1MDB), a former senior government official who minuted Cabinet meetings told the High Court today.

Former Cabinet deputy chief secretary Tan Sri Mazidah Abdul Majid, 72, said Najib had also asked the Cabinet not to publicise the purported donation.

Mazidah was testifying as the 11th prosecution witness in Najib’s power abuse and money laundering trial involving more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

Mazidah today went through and verified Cabinet meeting minutes from as early as April 2009 on matters such as 1MDB’s predecessor Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) before it was taken over by the federal government and turned into a state investment firm, as well as the September 8, 2010 Cabinet meeting minutes she prepared.

For the September 8, 2010 Cabinet meeting held at the prime minister’s office in Putrajaya and chaired by Najib as the prime minister, Mazidah was present.

Mazidah said a special message by the prime minister titled “Sumbangan Dana Kepada Yayasan 1Malaysia Development Berhad” or donation to Yayasan 1MDB was presented at the meeting, with the Cabinet taking note of the prime minister’s explanation that he was currently carrying out formal and informal engagement with certain quarters in Middle East nations who had given positive response towards many matters involving Malaysian interests.

Mazidah recorded the following from the September 2010 meeting: “Yang Amat Berhormat (prime minister) then notified and gave the following views: that the Saudi Arabia crown prince Sultan Abdul Aziz Al-Saud had notified Yang Amat Berhormat that he through his charity foundation agreed to donate to Yayasan 1Malaysia Development Berhad. The first donation has already been received and he promised to channel subsequent donations after this. Prince Sultan Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has asked for this donation not to be announced.”

Mazidah further quoted Najib as telling the Cabinet that more needy people could be helped and more corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and projects could be done through Yayasan 1MDB with that “donation”, and that Najib had said Cabinet ministers could also give their proposals on CSR projects to be carried out in October 2010.

Mazidah said Najib had also told his Cabinet that the government has to be more “creative” in finding government sources and allocations outside of the existing framework of government revenue to provide greater flexibility for the government to help the public, and that this was why Yayasan 1MDB was set up to support the government’s existing sources — especially to expand social programmes and projects.

Mazidah said the Cabinet agreed with Najib’s views on the alleged Saudi “donation” and the need for the Malaysian government to seek more funds as well as Yayasan 1MDB’s role, and that the Cabinet agreed “for the Saudi Arab government’s donation to not be announced.”

Mazidah said that the minutes of the September 8, 2010 meeting were verified by the Cabinet on September 22, 2010, with then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, who was the Cabinet’s secretary, and then deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin then signing off on them. Sidek had also attended the September 8 meeting.

According to the September 8, 2010 Cabinet meeting minutes produced in court today, the ministers who did not attend the meeting were then home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and then defence minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Mazidah joined the civil service in 1972, and was appointed in June 2000 as deputy chief secretary of the Cabinet, a post she continued to hold on contract until June 30, 2018 after her mandatory retirement in March 2005.

Earlier today, 1MDB’s former CEO and the trial’s 10th prosecution witness Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman was unable to attend court to continue testifying as he had a fever, with the prosecution then calling Mazidah as the next witness to enable the trial to proceed.

The High Court had this morning asked the prosecution to direct Hazem to undergo a Covid-19 swab test. By the end of today’s court proceedings, Hazem’s test result had yet to be known but is expected tomorrow.

Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow, where Mazidah is expected to be cross-examined by Najib’s lawyers.

Former deputy chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Mazidah Abdul Majid arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex June 18, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former deputy chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Mazidah Abdul Majid arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex June 18, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Previously, 1MDB’s former CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi had as the ninth prosecution witness in Najib’s 1MDB trial also testified how Low Taek Jho had in September 2010 handed him four signed cheques for 1MDB to hold on to, in expectation of Low’s claim of an alleged planned US$100 million donation from the Saudi royal family to Yayasan 1MDB.

Shahrol Azral, who was 1MDB CEO from 2009 until early 2013, had said that Low had asked him to hold on to the four cheques and not do anything with them until he received the green light from Low.

Shahrol Azral had told the High Court in September 2019 that he had never cashed the four cheques as he did not receive any instructions to do so, and that he had passed the four cheques to 1MDB’s finance department for safekeeping when he was no longer CEO as Low did not give further instructions.

Shahrol had confirmed that he did not know whose signature appeared on the cheques.

Further details such as the recipient named, the individual amount and date for each cheque were not read out in court while Shahrol Azral was testifying, but news outlet The Edge had previously reported that the four cheques were made out to Yayasan 1MDB as the recipient.

Najib’s 1MDB trial involves 25 criminal charges — four counts of abusing his position for his own financial benefit totalling almost RM2.3 billion allegedly originating from 1MDB and the resulting 21 counts of money laundering.

At the start of the trial, the prosecution had said it will show evidence to prove that Najib had allegedly together with his “mirror image” Low tried to cover his tracks after the 1MDB scandal broke in 2015, where alleged sham documents including four uncashed cheques for US$25 million each from a purported Arab donor were produced to fake a donation from an Arab prince.

 

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