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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

MACC officer, Najib's lawyer clash over 1MDB-Aabar JV support letter


1MDB TRIAL | An MACC investigating officer and Najib Abdul Razak’s defence team verbally clashed during today’s RM2.27 billion 1MDB corruption trial against the former prime minister.

Nur Aida Arifin and lawyer Wan Azwan Aiman Wan Fakhruddin disagreed on whether there was abuse of power when Najib obtained unanimous cabinet approval for the accused to sign a letter of support (LOS) for 1MDB to raise US$3 billion (RM14.31 billion) in bonds to finance its 2013 joint venture (JV) with Aabar Investments PJS.

During proceedings before the Kuala Lumpur High Court, the defence counsel cross-examined the prosecution’s 49th witness on whether Najib committed abuse of power despite the cabinet on March 13, 2013, unanimously giving the greenlight for him to sign the LOS for the 1MDB-Aabar JV.

The grilling began when Aida agreed with Wan Azwan that based on documentary evidence, Najib had no personal interest when the then-premier tabled the memorandum before the cabinet for approval of the issuance of the LOS.

Wan Azwan: But you mentioned that the (cabinet) greenlight of the LOS (to be signed by Najib) is wrongdoing, that you said that Najib signing the LOS is an act of abuse of power?

Nur Aida: Correct.

Wan Azwan: You agree that the approval for the signing of the LOS was given by the cabinet to Najib during the meeting on March 13, 2013?

Nur Aida: Correct.

Wan Azwan: Therefore, there was no abuse of power as Najib received unanimous cabinet approval.

Nur Aida: Disagree.

She also disagreed with Wan Azwan’s contention that Najib was disinterested in the LOS matter.

The charges

In the prosecution’s opening statement on the first day of trial on Aug 28, 2019, they contended that with the issuance of the LOS on March 14, 2013, 1MDB ended up raising US$3 billion through a bond deal for the sovereign wealth fund’s alleged JV with Abu Dhabi’s Aabar for the development of the TRX or the Tun Razak Exchange in Kuala Lumpur.

Prosecutors contended that via a circuitous and convoluted international transaction trail, US$681 million from this loan amount ended up in Najib’s Malaysian bank account between March and April 2013.

The prosecution also argued that fugitive businessperson Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) was Najib’s mirror image directing 1MDB’s management to transfer funds out of the troubled fund for dubious transactions.

However, Najib’s legal team contended his belief that the amount that went into his account was a donation promised by Saudi royalty and that the bulk of US$620 million of this amount had been returned to its sender in August 2013.

Najib’s lawyers also countered that the accused had no knowledge of the wrongdoing at 1MDB and that all the criminal acts there were solely masterminded by Low and members of the fund’s management.

The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this Thursday.

Najib is on trial for four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.27 billion from 1MDB.

For the four abuse of power charges, the former Pekan MP allegedly committed the offences at AmIslamic Bank Bhd’s Jalan Raja Chulan branch in Bukit Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur, between Feb 24, 2011, and Dec 19, 2014.

On the 21 money laundering counts, Najib purportedly committed the offences at the same bank between March 22, 2013, and Aug 30, 2013.

1MDB is fully owned by the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc).

Najib was chairperson of 1MDB’s board of advisers. - Mkini

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