Company and I were played out by ex-CEO, Najib says in SRC trial

(FMT) – Former prime minister Najib Razak told the High Court in his SRC International trial today that he and the company’s board of directors had been “played out” by former CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil in the relay of information.

Testifying as the first witness in his defence case, Najib said Nik Faisal, as CEO of the government-owned company, had briefed him about decisions made by the directors.

At the same time, he said, Nik Faisal who went missing before the May 9 polls last year, gave instructions to the directors saying that he, as the prime minister, wanted the company to approve certain decisions.

“I am sure I did not order the board of directors in any way because that is not how a MoF Inc company should operate,” he said, referring to the Minister of Finance Incorporated, a corporate body under the government.

“I did not micro-manage any MoF Inc companies, including SRC International,” he added.

He was responding to questions by his lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed on the testimonies of former SRC International directors Ismee Ismail and Suboh Md Yasin who said Nik Faisal was the “middle man” for the company and Najib.

Najib was appointed as the company’s adviser emeritus after SRC International held an extraordinary general meeting to amend the company’s constitution.

Under the amendments, the board of directors would have to seek his advice if they wished to invest in any important projects concerning the country.

But Najib said he never asked for the amendment to include the position of adviser emeritus.

“What I understood from that was, the adviser emeritus’ role was limited to decisions on important projects, not the company’s daily operations.

“The board of directors was not tied down to following my advice,” he added.

He also said the directors never sought his advice despite his role as adviser emeritus.

The Pekan MP said he did not know why Ismee and his colleagues at the time did not bother to check with him about Nik Faisal’s instructions which allegedly came from him.

“He (Ismee) was an experienced corporate figure who managed several GLCs. He had my personal number, too,” Najib added.

Ismee was the company’s chairman from August 2011 until he tendered his resignation in May 2014.

When asked about Ismee’s claim that he (Najib) had the power to hire and fire the directors, the former prime minister said it was nonsense.

“The power to appoint and remove directors was in the hands of the shareholders,” he said, adding that SRC International, as a government-linked company, could not act blindly.

Najib, who became the sole shareholder of SRC International after the company came under MoF Inc, also said the board members had a fiduciary duty to act in its best interests.

He said he was informed by his late principal private secretary Azlin Alias that Ismee had resigned as he disagreed with Nik Faisal’s managing style and the way in which the company’s accounts and finances were handled.

He said Nik Faisal’s contract as both managing director and CEO was not renewed in August 2014 although he was retained as a director.

“I was told that Nik Faisal was needed as the other director had assigned him to bring back SRC International funds invested overseas.”

Najib faces six charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust in the transfer of RM42 million to his account from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.

He is also accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.