KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak took the witness stand at the High Court here today as the first defence witness to answer charges against him relating to SRC International Berhad (SRC) funds.
Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali had, on Nov 11, ordered Najib, 66, to enter his defence on three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT), three charges of money laundering and one count of abuse of position in relation to SRC funds totalling RM42 million, after finding that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.
The defence opened its case today with Najib reading out his 243-page witness statement, touching among others on the appointment of directors of sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA), Khazanah, Petronas, PNB, TNB, Telekom and others.
Najib, who was also finance minister when he was the prime minister, also spoke at length about the setting up of 1MDB, the role fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, played in the setting up of TIA which later morphed into 1MDB, and the idea behind the setting up of SRC.
He described Jho Low as a very influential figure with vast connections with the Terengganu royal family and in the Middle East.
The Pekan MP said this was the reason why he retained Jho Low as an advisor of 1MDB after the federal government took over TIA in 2009 and changed its name to 1MDB, with its shares held by Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc).
He also said that he saw it fit for 1MDB to have an advisory board along the model of its predecessor (TIA) (Najib was the chairman of the 1MDB advisory board).
During the examination-in-chief by his lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Najib told the court that as the prime minister, he had absolute powers on the appointment of directors of government-linked companies.
Justice Mohd Nazlan is presiding over the hearing.
Najib, who served as the sixth prime minister from 2009 to 2018, is the first former head of government of Malaysia to find himself in the dock of a court.
He is accused of committing the offences between Aug 17, 2011 and March 2, 2015.
The court fixed Dec 3 and 4, Dec 9 to 12, and Dec 16 to 19 for Najib to enter his defence.
The prosecution team is led by Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas. The team also comprises ad-hoc deputy public prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram while Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee leads a group of defence counsel.
On Oct 22 and 23, the court heard lengthy submissions from the prosecution and defence teams. The prosecution had, on Aug 27, closed its case after 58 days of trial with 57 witnesses called to testify.
During the trial, the prosecution tendered more than 750 exhibits, including bank documents relating to Najib’s bank accounts, cash transactions, minutes of meetings and Blackberry Messenger chats over Najib’s transactions. - Bernama