Appellate court calls Najib’s Arab donation yarn a ‘concoction bereft of any credibility’

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Supporters of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak are seen at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya December 8, 2021. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Supporters of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak are seen at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya December 8, 2021. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 8 — The Court of Appeal today dismissed Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Arab donation defence from his SRC International trial, saying nothing supported the ex-prime minister’s belief that funds he misappropriated from the former 1MDB unit were donations from the Saudi royalty.

In delivering the unanimous decision rejecting Najib’s appeal against his conviction and sentence for misappropriating RM42 million belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, Justice Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil said the bench noted that Najib’s claim was supported by four letters purportedly written by one Prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud on behalf of the King of Saudi Arabia.

“On the defence of the Arab donations, as alluded earlier, we agree with the learned trial judge that the Arab donation story is nothing more than a concoction that is completely bereft of any credibility.

“There is no evidence at all that the RM42 million came from, or could have come from the Saudi royal family, nor is there any reasonable basis for the appellant to have formed that belief.

“The funds came from SRC and that is well established,” he said in the ruling.

Abdul Karim had earlier explicitly pointed out that Najib neither called upon the letter’s maker to testify nor had the authenticity of the Arab letters established during the trial.

“Thus, the contents of the Arab letters remained hearsay and inadmissible.

“The learned trial judge considered this defence in some detail before rejecting it.

“He found that the appellant’s belief that the funds in his accounts were Arab donation was unbelievable when weighed against the totality of the evidence.

“We, too, found this Arab donation defence untenable for the same reasons as the learned trial judge found,” he said in the summarised grounds of judgment.

Explaining the appellate court’s findings, Abdul Karim said evidence clearly showed that funds originated from SRC International ended in the personal accounts of the appellant.

“Now, if they were a personal donation from the Saudi Royal family to the appellant, then there is no reason for it to be deposited into SRC’s account.

“SRC is government-linked company owned by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated).

“Secondly the alleged bulk of the Arab donation entered and left the appellant account sometime in 2013, well before the RM42 million came from SRC International to the appellant personal bank account,” he said.

The judge further contended that evidence revealed that some RM136 million were utilised by Najib despite the latter’s belief that only RM49 million came pursuant to alleged fourth Arab letters around late 2014 to early 2015.

“Hence we agree with the learned deputy’s contention that the circumstances surrounding the fourth Arab letter clearly shows that it is a fabrication and that the appellant could not honestly believe that the RM49 million was from the Saudi royal family,” he said.

Abdul Karim later concluded that the bench found no misdirection in the trial judge’s conduct in this regard that would warrant appellate intervention.

“The learned trial judge had carried out his duties and responsibilities at the close of the defence case in accordance to the established principles of law.

“Having done that, the learned trial judge found, and quite correctly we must add, that the three CBT charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.

The High Court previously sentenced Najib to 10 years’ jail for each of six charges (three counts each of criminal breach of trust and money laundering), as well as 12 years’ jail and a RM210 million fine with an additional five years’ jail if the fine is not paid for the abuse of position charge.

The High Court had decided that all the prison sentences would run concurrently or at the same time, which would mean a maximum imprisonment of 12 years for Najib.

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