SRC conviction appeal: Prosecutor says Najib’s purported ‘Arab donation’ belief just ‘desperate’ defence bid

(MMO) – Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s purportedly genuine belief that Arab donations were the source of RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd funds credited into his personal accounts was nothing more than a “desperate” defence that was wholly “incredible”, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram said this during the prosecution’s rebuttal in Najib’s appeal hearing against the former prime minister’s conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International Sdn Bhd funds.

Sithambaram described Najib’s defence as highly improbable and doubtful, citing the numerous evidence inconsistencies and contradictions submitted on the purported meeting with then monarch of Saudi Arabia, the late King Abdullah.

According to the defence, the Arab donations were a pledge of support from the King which occurred at a personal meeting that was arranged by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, who according Najib enjoyed a close relationship with the Saudi Royal family.

This meeting was held in January 2010 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where Najib met the King with several other individuals namely, former Malaysian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Datuk Syed Omar Al Saggaf including former ministers Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

“The contradictions are so obvious. It is the desperation of the defence to find a defence that is credible.

“Usually in the defence case, witnesses come and corroborate the appellant’s evidence but here they came and contradict him instead,” Sithambaram said.

Sithambaram submitted that even the trial judge agreed that the evidence adduced by Najib was contradicted by the defence’s own witnesses and as such all the evidence led by the defence on the purported promise of financial donations cannot withstand scrutiny and must therefore be rejected.

“It is clear the contradictory evidence of the Arab donation is not a mere inconsistency but a contradiction that makes this story unbelievable.

“The learned judge rightly decided that the discrepancies in relation to the promise of financial support by the King at the purported meeting in January 2010 is sufficient to adversely affect the credibility of the defence witnesses and consequently throws grave doubt that there was any financial donation promised by the King to the appellant,” he said.

Contradictions and inconsistencies

Sithambaram said Najib’s testimony contradicted that of his fifth and sixth defence witness, Jamil Khir (DW5) and Anifah (DW6) respectively, on the King’s promised support where Najib merely stated that the King had promised support.

Both defence witnesses testified that the King had promised financial support after only being informed by Najib and were not privy to the discussions between the state leaders.

Najib explained it was only later around mid-2010 he was informed by Low that the King had agreed to provide financial support to him in the form of personal donations.

“For all intents and purposes, it is submitted that the evidence of Syed Omar (fourth defence witness, DW4) and DW6 is not credible and also hearsay evidence as they cannot verify no confirm the matter as they had no personal knowledge of any financial pledge by the King to the appellant,” Sithambaram said.

Furthermore, Sithambaram said DW6 contradicted the evidence of DW4 and DW5 when Anifah said that the promise of the donation was made during the official meeting between January 13 and 16, 2010 and not at the arranged informal meeting on January 11, 2010.

“The defence witnesses seem to be in disagreement as to when the purported financial donation meeting with the King occurred. DW4 and DW5 testified that it took place during an informal meeting on January 11, 2010, prior to the formal meeting from January 13 to 16, 2010.

“On the other hand, DW6 testified that it took place during the official meeting on January 13 to 16, 2010,” he said.

He said the trial judge did not err in his judgement in finding that Najib should have taken steps to verify the truth of the information regarding the financial donation allegedly offered during the meeting at Riyadh.

“The appellant could have easily instructed DW4, DW5 or DW6 to verify with the King or his palace but instead chose to rely on Jho Low.

“This lack of confirmation from official channels which would normally occur between leaders of sovereign nations is very telling that this so called Arab donation is but a sham defence,” he added.

The whereabouts of DW5 on the purported date of the meeting on January 11, 2010 was also called into question, which Sithambaram described as an attempt to concoct a made-up defence.

Evidence tendered in court subsequently revealed that DW5 had attended a gathering in Putrajaya on the aforementioned date together with several photos of DW5 at the gathering as affirmed through a departmental bulletin of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

“Hence, the bulletin casts doubt on the credibility of DW5 and raises serious questions as to whether he was a truthful and reliable witness in court when he testified that he was in Saudi Arabia with the appellant on the same date.

“This perhaps explains the contradiction as to when the King is alleged to have purportedly offered the financial donation,” Sithambaram added.

In the RM42 million SRC International case, Najib was sentenced by the High Court to 10 years’ jail on each of the three counts of CBT and each of the three counts of money laundering, and 12 years’ jail and a RM210 million fine, in default five years’ jail, in the case of abuse of position on July 28 last year.

However, Najib will only serve 12 years in jail as the judge ordered all the jail sentences to run concurrently which he is now appealing against.

The appeal hearing before Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil who chaired a three-member panel alongside Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera continues.