Cabinet did not discuss ‘donation’, public also not told, says ex-minister

Former minister Jamil Khir Baharom says Najib Razak led a delegation at an informal meeting with the late Saudi King Abdullah in 2010. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A former minister told the High Court in Najib Razak’s SRC International trial the Cabinet had never discussed a “donation” from the late Saudi King Abdullah Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

Jamil Khir Baharom, who was previously in charge of religious affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department, said this when questioned by ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram on an unofficial meeting between King Abdullah and Najib, himself and two others on Jan 11, 2010.

The others were former foreign minister Anifah Aman and former Malaysian ambassador to Saudi Arabia Syed Omar Al-Saggaf.

“As I can recall, there was no discussion,” Jamil said when testifying as a defence witness today.

He also agreed with Sithambaram that the public was not informed about the “donation” at the time.

Jamil said the unofficial meeting took place at the palace in Riyadh, and they discussed the haj quota, the Arab Spring uprisings, and financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.

“King Abdullah praised us for our job in administrating a multicultural country and wanted Datuk Seri to maintain Malaysia as a moderate Islamic country,” he said.

He said another reason why King Abdullah wanted to extend financial assistance to Najib was because he wanted Malaysia to ward off Shia influence and to eliminate religious extremism.

He recalled that the Saudi ruler told them he would be sending funds shortly after the Jan 11 meeting and that the money would be deposited into Najib’s personal account.

“His Majesty was worried that channelling the funds into other organisations or entities may complicate the way the funds would be spent,” he said.

Asked whether he knew that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, was the one who arranged the meeting, Jamil said he was unaware of it.

Previously, Najib had said the Penang businessman had informed him in 2010 that King Abdullah had agreed to provide him with support in the form of a financial donation.

Najib said he believed Low was “managing the funds on behalf of the Saudi royal family”.

Jamil also said he did not not know how much King Abdullah had sent to Najib, or that Najib had returned more than US$620 million to Tanore Finance Corporation a few months after the 2013 general election.

Najib is facing six charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust in the transfer of RM42 million from SRC International to his account.

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 Incorporated or KWAP.

The hearing before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues on Thursday, when Anifah is expected to testify.