In forfeiture suit, prosecution says no logical reason given why billions of ringgit made it into Najib’s account

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court March 11, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat isa
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court March 11, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — There is no logical explanation available to justify billions of ringgit directed into the personal bank accounts of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, more so the purchase of valuable items with the alleged ill-gotten gains, the High Court was told today.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Faten Hadni Khairuddin said such large amounts like the RM2.6 billion channelled into the former prime minister’s bank accounts are bound to raise eyebrows, especially since the transaction came without a reasonable explanation put forth to disprove allegations of it being proceeds of money laundering.

“There is no logical or reasonable explanation as to why the account ending-9694 received such a huge amount of money, other than the first respondent (Najib) saying it was a form of donation.

“But there is no explanation to show that the account receiving, using, and paying back the funds consciously is not a form of money laundering.

“This is a big amount, not like those seen in mule accounts of those related to scams.

“We are talking about an account that has a single signatory signing in all the cheques, receiving hundreds of millions consciously, and issued cheques to companies like Tanore, while the grounds provided does not explain why,” said Faten.

Faten said these to the court before Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, during a forfeiture hearing where the government is seeking to recover more than 350 valuable items seized from Najib’s residences during police raids in 2018.

The hearing for the forfeiture went ahead today after no third parties, other than the 18 respondents named in the suit, had come forward to claim any of the valuable items which were seized more than two years ago as part of investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal.

In this suit, the government is seeking to recover 263 branded handbags, 14 pieces of branded watches, cash in various currencies, including Singapore and US dollars, British pounds, Indonesian rupiah and euros, and funds amounting to more than RM14 million from the 18 individuals.

The prosecution’s case is that the seized items and properties were either funds siphoned from 1MDB, or purchased with the ill gotten gains that originated from the former sovereign wealth fund.

The 18 named in the suit are Najib, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, their two children Nor Ashman Razak Mohd Najib, Nooryana Najwa Mohd Najib and Najib’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz.

The rest are Mohd Kyizzad Mesran, Senijauhar Sdn Bhd, Aiman Ruslan, Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia, Yayasan Semesta, Yayasan Mustika Kasih, Rembulan Kembara Sdn Bhd, Goh Gaik Ewe who happens to be fugitive financier Low Taek Jho’s mother, former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng Chong Hwa and his wife Lim Hwee Bin, Kee Kok Thiam, Tan Vern Tact, and Geh Choh Hun.

Earlier during the hearing, DPP Muhammad Saifuddin Hasim Musaimi advised the court that any parties looking to reclaim the seized goods must convincingly disprove all the elements within Section 61 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing And Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLATFAPUAA) before the seized goods can be returned.

Section 61 of the AMLATFAPUAA relates to the conditions a bona fide third party seeking to claim forfeited items must satisfy, which among the first hurdles is for them is to disprove any doubts of their lack of good faith after considering the facts of the case.

It also spells out how the court shall return the seized goods to the claimants only if it is satisfied they have a legitimate interest in the seized properties and if the items were acquired without participation or collusion in terrorism financing.

Additionally, Section 61 also requires the court to decide if the claimant lacked knowledge and was not intentionally ignorant of the illegal use of the property; if the claimant was unaware the properties acquired had its rights transferred to avoid being the subject of forfeitures; and if the claimant did all that could reasonably be expected of him to prevent the illegal use of the property.

“According to the investigation officer, the money allegedly came out of 1MDB, but what we are contending here is the status of that money, or did it come out to purchase these items, where the court has to see what is the status of this money and the guiltiness and status of these properties.

“We are not against the suspects (respondents), we are against the property where the court has to decide if these properties are tainted or not and this has to be done based on the balance of probabilities.

“Anyone who wants to claim anything that we asked to be forfeited has to prove their case under Section 61,” said Muhammad Saifuddin.

Later, Faten said that this case being a forfeiture that was filed as a quasi civil action suit, unlike criminal proceeding, only requires the court to make a judgment after balancing the probability of both arguments.

This essentially means a lesser burden of proof on the prosecution and does not require them to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We are not here to prove that they(respondents) committed an offence, but to show there is an element to show the offence of money laundering.

“So what the court has to consider is based not on raising reasonable doubt, but for it to balance the probability of the facts,” Faten said.

The hearing has been scheduled to resume on April 1 and 23, and June 18.

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