Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Najib’s defence scored own goal over Blackberry Messenger chats, says prosecution

Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram says the chats created and raised a strong inference that Najib did in fact have knowledge of the status and transactions made from his bank accounts.

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The Court of Appeal was today told that Najib Razak’s defence scored an “own goal” in tendering evidence that effectively contradicted the former prime minister’s claim of not knowing about the status of his personal bank accounts in relation to the RM42 million in SRC International funds.

Ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram highlighted how numerous BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) chats between the 54th prosecution witness, AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping, and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, had instead indicated actual knowledge on Najib’s part regarding the status and transactions involving his personal accounts.

“The defence alleged the prosecution shifted the goal post. But here, they scored an own goal.

“BBM chats created and raised a strong inference that Najib must have had actual knowledge of the status, the countless transactions in and out of his accounts, and the actual balance for him to take action in utilising the funds, including the money of SRC International that entered his bank accounts,” he added.

He submitted this before a three-member bench led by judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil in the hearing of Najib’s appeal against his conviction and jail sentence for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds.

The other two judges on the bench were Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

Sithambaram said relevant chat transcripts that fortified Najib’s actual knowledge of the funds within his accounts included occasions where Jho Low would forward BBM text messages he had received from Najib to Yu, and the copying of BBM text messages that Jho Low had sent to Najib on the account balances after enquiring with Yu on the exact balance.

Najib’s defence throughout the trial contended that the former prime minister did not know of the funds’ source and that its subsequent utilisation did not prove the element of dishonest misappropriation under criminal breach of trust (CBT), he added.

The Penang-based criminal lawyer then cited Najib’s cross-examination transcript and BBM chats, which he said confirmed that Najib had had communications with Jho Low directly through messages on his accounts’ status.

“The BBM chats where reference is made by Jho Low to the appellant were readily admitted by the appellant as being his messages sent to Jho Low. The appellant admitted that he could gauge how much he could spend by communicating on a few occasions with Jho Low.

“The appellant further states that he communicated with his private secretary, Azlin Alias, who informed him as to how much the appellant could spend.

“In short, there is an admission by the appellant that he knew his bank balance from Jho Low and Azlin,” he said, adding that Najib’s defence that he never knew the balance in his account had thus failed.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court on July 28 last year sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty on seven charges of CBT, money laundering and abuse of position involving RM42 million in SRC International funds.

The hearing of the appeal continues.

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