Najib’s claim Jho Low ‘manipulated’ his bank account to deceive him ‘a cock-and-bull story’, SRC appeal hears

Lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram is pictured at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya April 20, 2021. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram is pictured at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya April 20, 2021. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, April 20 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak is the one “playing tricks” to “bury the obvious truth” following claims that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho “manipulated” his personal bank account to deceive him into believing he had funds, when he did not, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram said this during the prosecution’s rebuttal in Najib’s appeal hearing against the former prime minister’s conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International Sdn Bhd funds.

Describing Najib’s claim as absurd, Sithambaram highlighted to the court how Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, Najib’s former principle private secretary Datuk Seri Azlin Alias and former SRC International chief executive Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil were tasked to ensure sufficient funds were available for Najib to issue cheques and spend.

He said the three individuals were akin to a Roman triumvirate tasked by Najib with ensuring that funds were readily available and said fact was acknowledged by Najib himself under cross-examination.

“How can this be a trick? The appellant is playing a trick to bury the obvious truth.

“It’s so bizarre My Lord. I cannot make heads or tails. It’s a cock-and-bull story,” he said.

Sithambaram said the only certainty is that Low was intensely involved in ensuring there were sufficient funds for Najib to spend.

“As submitted earlier, even the appellant himself had admitted that Jho Low was tasked together with Datuk Azlin and Nik Faisal to ensure that sufficient funds were available for him to utilise.

“The actions of Jho Low were done with full knowledge of the appellant and not to deceive the appellant into thinking he had Arab funds in his account,” he said in his submission.

He said evidence adduced in court clearly showed that Najib alone benefited and gained millions from the monies deposited into his accounts despite insisting that Low “manipulated” his accounts of which Najib claimed to have no part.

“The appellant even admitted that although he claimed that he had been manipulated, he had not lost anything but instead gained millions from the monies deposited into his accounts by Jho Low, the manipulator, which the appellant readily spent,” he said.

Three issues were also raised by Sithambaram to highlight the “self-serving” nature of the defence argument, in that Najib was framed by Low and purportedly by the bankers involved to make it appear that he had indeed committed criminal breach of trust offences.

“Firstly, there is no logic for Jho Low to deceive the appellant and make him think that the Arab donations were still available,” he said.

Sithambaram added that anyone with a simple knowledge of basic mathematics, let alone a finance minister, could have known that the RM42 million was not Arab donation since it would have dried up judging by the way Najib spent them.

Earlier, Sithambaram said the contention that Najib believed the source of funds in his account came from the Arab donation is unbelievable because the money trail in bank documents showed the said bulk of the donations was either returned and the remainder had been fully utilised by before the deposit of the RM42 million from SRC International.

“Secondly, the appellant himself admits that Jho Low was tasked with ensuring there were funds for his needs at all times. That was why Jho Low was pumping monies into the appellant’s bank accounts which the appellant was constantly spending.

“Thirdly, if the appellant had apparently discovered Jho Low’s deception, there would have been investigations that could show Jho Low utilising SRC funds. That would also entail investigations showing that SRC’s funds were being utilised by the appellant,” he said.

Sithambaram further submitted that the defence was hiding the truth by claiming Najib was under the belief that the monies he was spending were actually from the Arab donations.

“In actual fact, the said funds were from Jho Low, who was ‘bank-rolling’ the appellant.

“Blaming Jho Low for ensuring that the appellant had adequate funds in his personal account is simply outrageous,” he said.

In the RM42 million SRC International case, Najib was sentenced to 10 years’ jail on each of the three counts of CBT and each of the three counts of money laundering, and 12 years’ jail and a RM210 million fine, in default five years’ jail, in the case of abuse of position on July 28 last year.

However, Najib will only serve 12 years in jail as the judge ordered all the jail sentences to run concurrently.

The appeal hearing before Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil who chaired a three-member panel alongside Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera continues.

259 Kelantan secondary school pupils test positive for Covid since April 3

A TOTAL of 259 or 56% out of the 464 individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 in Kelantan between April 3 and 16 were secondary school pupils, according to state health director Dr Zaini Hussin.

He said the rest were primary school pupils (111 persons or 24%); teachers, school staff and other individuals aged above 19 (86 persons or 19%); and children below the age of seven (eight persons or 2%).

Kota Tinggi school hostel supervisor remanded for allegedly making RM20m false claims in food supply contract

The 40-year-old suspect (centre) is led to the Johor Baru Magistrate’s Court by Johor MACC officers April 20, 2021. — Picture courtesy of Johor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission
The 40-year-old suspect (centre) is led to the Johor Baru Magistrate’s Court by Johor MACC officers April 20, 2021. — Picture courtesy of Johor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission

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JOHOR BARU, April 20 — A 40-year-old woman hostel supervisor of a school in the Kota Tinggi district was remanded today for six days to assist in investigations into false claims made for a food supply contract worth RM20 million.

Magistrate Nur Izzaty Mohammad Zahari allowed the Johor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) remand application for the suspect at the Magistrate’s Court here.

Earlier in a statement, the Johor MACC said investigations revealed that the suspect had allegedly conspired with several contractor companies by making claims regarding the supply of cooked food for the hostel’s students in 2015, 2018 and 2020.

“The claim for the supply of cooked food involves a total of almost RM20 million, which is dubious.

“The suspect, who works as a supervisor of a boarding school in the Kota Tinggi district, was arrested at the Johor MACC office at 10pm last night to assist ongoing investigations,” read the statement issued today.

Johor MACC director Datuk Azmi Alias when contacted confirmed the arrest and added that the suspect has been remanded.

The case is being investigated under Section 18 of the MACC Act 2009 that, upon conviction, is punishable by a fine of five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher and imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.

Philippines to trial ivermectin, other drugs to fight Covid-19

Covid-19 patients wait for rooms at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Centre in Marikina last month. (AP pic)

MANILA: The Philippines will begin clinical trial of several drugs, including the anti-parasite medication ivermectin, in patients with Covid-19 to determine their efficacy in combatting the coronavirus, a senior government official said.

Some politicians in the Philippines have started promoting the use of ivermectin for coronavirus and given out free doses, although the country’s food and drugs regulator has cautioned against the use because of a lack of evidence for the drug as a treatment.

The clinical trial for ivermectin, which could last for six months, “will give us a more reliable estimate of the effects of invermectin as an anti-viral agent in mild and moderate (Covid-19) patients”, Science And Technology Minister Fortunato Dela Pena said in a presentation late yesterday.

The Southeast Asian nation, which is facing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, is battling a renewed surge in infections, with its vaccination drive on reaching 1.3 million people out of its more than 108 million population.

Ivermectin tablets have been approved for treating some worm infestations and for veterinary use in animals for parasites.

The World Health Organization last month recommended against using ivermectin in patients with Covid-19 except for clinical trials, because of a lack of data demonstrating its benefits.

Dela Pena said the government has also approved the clinical trials of a new formulation of methylprednisolone, a steroid, and melatonin, as treatments for Covid-19.

The government will also start trials of a herbal supplement, derived from the native tawa-tawa plant that can fight dengue, he said, adding to ongoing tests using virgin coconut oil for severe Covid-19 patients.

“We are trying several (medications). They may not be vaccines but they could potentially speed up the recovery,” Dela Pena said.

The Philippines has recorded more than 945,000 Covid-19 cases and over 16,000 deaths, the second highest rates in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

Hong Kong decides not to air Oscars this year

TVB’s decision has fuelled concerns about dwindling freedoms in Hong Kong. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: The decision in Hong Kong not to air this year’s Oscars has only brought more global attention to its struggle for democracy, said the director of the “Do Not Split” documentary about the city’s 2019 protests, which has been short-listed for an award.

Free-to-air broadcaster TVB, which has broadcast the Oscars every year since 1969, said it would not carry the ceremony this year for commercial reasons.

TVB’s decision has fuelled concerns about dwindling freedoms in Hong Kong, which has taken an authoritarian path since China imposed a sweeping national security law last year in response to the often violent protests of 2019.

Norwegian filmmaker Anders Hammer told Reuters in an interview he believed the decision was politically motivated, but helps bring even more global attention to Hong Kong, the primary aim of his documentary in the first place.

“It’s sad that the Oscars are being censored in Hong Kong in the way that people can’t see it as they have done for 52 years on normal TV,” Hammer said in a video call from Oslo, where he will be during the awards ceremony due to the pandemic.

“In a way, our documentary has become part of the story told in our movie, which is how the room for expression and the freedom of the press and other basic democratic rights are disappearing in Hong Kong.”

In an emailed response to questions, TVB said “it was purely a commercial decision that we decided not to pursue the Oscars this year,” and declined further comment.

The Hong Kong government did not respond to a request for comment.

The Oscars can still be viewed online in Hong Kong.

For the first time at the Oscars, a Hong Kong-born director, Derek Tsang, has earned a nomination. His romantic crime movie “Better Days” is short-listed in the best international feature film category.

Scrutiny over arts, media and culture has intensified in recent months in Hong Kong, where cinemas pulled a local protest documentary, a university cancelled a press photography exhibition, and a soon-to-open contemporary art museum said it will allow the police’s new national security unit to vet its collections.

Authorities have said rights and freedoms in Hong Kong remain intact, and the former British colony retains a high degree of autonomy from Beijing, but national security was a red line not to be crossed.

Many of the city’s officials criticised coverage of the protests that gave vast air-time to the demonstrators as attempts to “glorify violence”.

“Do Not Split”, short-listed in the short subject documentary category, follows different groups of protesters from the summer of 2019 until the coronavirus and the national security law put an end to demonstrations a year later.

Its opening scene shows a group of black-clad demonstrators asking for directions to a Bank of China branch, which they later set on fire in a show of anger over Beijing’s increasingly tighter grip on Hong Kong.

The security law drew criticism from Western governments and international rights groups who say it has put the global financial hub on an authoritarian path. Its supporters say the law has restored order.

Since it was introduced, dozens of activists and opposition politicians have been jailed. More than 10,000 people were arrested in relation to the protests. Many activists, including U.S.-based Joey Siu, who appears in the documentary, have fled the city to continue their advocacy.

“The saddest part of working on this documentary was to see how the whole situation affected the people I was following,” Hammer said.

“I felt I became close to them, I was filming them in a very intimate way and I was following them in many, many situations.”

SRC appeal: Prosecutor insists Najib was ‘shadow director’, ‘puppeteer’ of former 1MDB unit’s board

Lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram arrives at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya April 13, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram arrives at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya April 13, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, April 19 — As ‘shadow director’ of SRC International Sdn Bhd, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was a “puppeteer” in absolute control of the “puppets” on the company’s board who had to execute his instructions, prosecutors told the Court of Appeal today.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram said this during rebuttal to Najib’s appeal hearing against his conviction and jail sentence for misappropriating RM42 million belonging to the former 1MDB subsidiary.

In his submission on Najib’s three criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges, Sithambaram said Najib’s acts clearly brought him within the ambit of the definition of a director and that the latter was  effectively a “shadow director” in how he conducted himself in relation to SRC’s affairs.

“The definitive element in that the acts, directions and instructions are those that the directors of the company are accustomed to issue or act akin to a shadow director.

“That is exactly how the affairs of SRC were conducted by the appellant.

“The appellant, although not a director formally appointed, was in fact the shadow director of SRC by virtue of the fact that the SRC board were accustomed to act on the instructions or directions of the appellant,” he said.

Sithambaram cited the testimonies of former SRC International chairman Tan Sri Ismee Ismail, who is also the 39th prosecution witness, as proof that Najib’s conduct showed him to have control of the SRC board and dictated the use of the funds of the company through shareholder instructions which Najib personally signed.

“There is a real nexus between the appellant and SRC and this is evident when the appellant himself instructed how the funds of SRC were to be utilised, thus showing that he was indeed the directing mind of SRC.

“It is submitted that the conduct of the appellant in issuing many shareholder instructions fits the description of the puppeteer (the appellant) in absolute control of the puppets (the board) that he himself had placed when he appointed all the members of the SRC board who were unable to dance to any other tune except to that of his,” he said.

As a “shadow director”, Sithambaram said Najib owed a fiduciary duty to the company in the same way as any other directors and act in the best interests of the company.

In order to establish the requirement of a “shadow director”, Sithambaram said evidence adduced in court proved with certainty that Najib had acted as the shadow director of SRC International.

“The appellant issued shareholder instructions which the directors had to follow as they were the instructions of the shareholder who was also the prime minister and the same person who appointed those directors.

“The directors followed all of the instructions of the appellant and acted in accordance with them.

“There is no evidence to show the directors had disregarded or disobeyed the instructions of the appellant,” he said.

Adding further, Sithambaram said the directors were accustomed to act on Najib’s direction as he had appointed them during an instance where the SRC board wanted to drawdown the Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP) RM4 billion loan in stages in order to avoid payment of interest for funds that were yet to be utilised.

However, the SRC board was instead instructed to make a full drawdown on the shareholder instructions signed by the Najib, Sithabaram added.

In the RM42 million SRC International case, Najib was sentenced to 10 years’ jail on each of the three counts of CBT and each of the three counts of money laundering, and 12 years’ jail and a RM210 million fine, in default five years’ jail, in the case of abuse of position on July 28 last year.

However, Najib will only serve 12 years in jail as the judge ordered all the jail sentences to run concurrently.

The appeal hearing before Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil who chaired a three-member panel alongside Datuk Has Zanah Mehat and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera continues.

CM says approved expert panel to apprise Sarawak on Covid-19 vaccine developments

A dose of the Pfizer-BioTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at the UiTM Hospital in Sungai Buloh March 2, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara.
A dose of the Pfizer-BioTech Covid-19 vaccine is pictured at the UiTM Hospital in Sungai Buloh March 2, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara.

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KUCHING, April 19 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said he has approved a Sarawak Covid-19 Advisory Group (SCOVAG) to help update the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) on the global vaccine news and research.

He said the panel of experts will also advise the state government on the vaccine best suited for Sarawakians and set up the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force Sarawak (CITF) team to deal with the coordination of the vaccine preparedness.

He said the Sarawak government remained ready to assist in expediting the implementation of the National Immunisation Plan.

“For the supply of vaccines, I have given the green light for Sarawak to purchase sufficient vaccines to expedite the immunisation coverage for Sarawakians,” the chief minister said at a virtual press conference.

He said SDMC chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah has met with Science Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister, last week to discuss Sarawak’s legal obligations to purchase its supply of vaccines.

“I was informed that Khairy had assured us that they will support in supplying Sarawak with enough vaccines to meet Sarawak’s goal to complete its vaccination plan by end of August,” Abang Johari said.

He said he was also informed that all 12 of Sarawak’s division residents were working very hard with their Divisional Disaster Management Committees (DDMCs) on the planning in preparation for the arrival of the vaccine.

He said SDMC has identified and submitted 279 venues throughout Sarawak to be designated as the vaccination centres.

The chief minister said the focus on the second phase of the vaccination programme, which began today, is on the elderly and those who have comorbidities.

He added he expected the third phase to begin in May 2021 subjected to vaccine supply.

He urged all to register to be vaccinated via the Special Committee of Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) website or via the MySejahtera application.

He advised those who do not have access to both to register through their closest District Office or Resident Offices.

Canada to send support to virus-hit province

CANADA will funnel additional health staff and equipment into virus-hit Ontario as the province battles a worrying spike in Covid-19 infections, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday.

The government will mobilise health professionals from different federal departments and deploy them to Ontario, particularly the Toronto region, where “the situation is most critical”, Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

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