1MDB wanted RM3 billion to set up SRC International, court told

KUALA LUMPUR: A former Economic Planning Unit (EPU) senior officer told the High Court in Najib Razak’s SRC International trial today that 1MDB had sought RM3 billion from the government as a grant to set up its subsidiary company.

Kamariah Noruddin, who held the position of deputy director-general (macro) in the EPU, said her department received a letter from the sovereign fund in August 2010.

The letter was addressed to Najib as prime minister at the time.

Kamariah said 1MDB proposed the establishment of SRC or Strategic Resource Company as a special purpose vehicle company to explore energy resources such as oil and gas, coal, uranium, metal and aluminium.

“What was striking about this letter was that it came from a company instead of the ministries from which EPU normally receives such applications,” she said.

Kamariah said after receiving the 1MDB letter, her former supervisor and EPU director-general Noriah Ahmad, under Najib’s instructions, told her to look into the application.

“The RM3 billion grant application was hard to process because we do not usually handle applications from the prime minister,” she said when questioned about the letter by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul.

When asked what happened to 1MDB’s request for RM3 billion, Kamariah said it was not approved.

“We only approved an allocation of RM20 million as a launching ground for SRC,” she said, adding that this was for the study of coal and uranium.

Kamariah said EPU had supported SRC in its bid for coal and uranium exploration as Malaysia is dependent on these two resources.

“For oil and gas, we had Petronas as the pioneer in the industry, and for metal, we decided that it was better to leave it to the private sector,” she added.

Kamariah, who retired from the civil service last year, said after the application was approved for coal and uranium exploration, she sent a letter to 1MDB managing director Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi to inform the company about the RM20 million.

When asked by Najib’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, if 1MDB’s proposal to set up SRC International was a serious issue and not a “hare-brained scheme”, Kamariah said yes.

“The company submitted it to the prime minister and copied their letter to us in EPU,” she said.

When asked whether the EPU had rushed to approve 1MDB’s application, Kamariah said no.

She added that the RM20 million grant was approved as EPU wanted to help the company explore for natural resources.

Najib is facing 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 Nazlan Ghazali.