KUALA LUMPUR: Payments made by Datuk Seri Najib Razak, meant for two organisations for a weekly Chinese publication and the administration of a Facebook page, went through a middleman instead of the entities directly, the second day of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial heard Thursday (Aug 29).
Former political secretary to the former premier Datuk Wong Nai Chee told the High Court that this was to prevent the cheque from circulating on Facebook.
He said it was to prevent other people from trying to claim credit for the cheque to enhance their own credibility.
The RM246,000 cheque, signed off by Najib, was issued to tycoon Tan Sri Lim Soon Peng, who would then make back-to-back payments to Taima Journalism and Information Academy - the publisher of Chinese Weekly - and to AD Network - the administrators of Najib's Chinese Facebook page "Ah Jib Gor".
During the cross-examination by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, Wong said they would rather pay someone they trust to make the payments so that the cheque would not be circulated on Facebook.
Sri Ram: Tan Sri Lim Soon Peng, did he have any connection with these two entities?
Sri Ram: If that be the case, can you explain to his Lordship why the cheque was not paid out to these two entities?
Wong: It was paid to Lim Soon Peng for a back-to-back payment to these two parties, because we trusted Lim Soon Peng. He wouldn't run away with the money because the cheques were paid for the expenses incurred for the Chinese weekly publication, as well as to maintain the Ah Jib Gor Facebook page.
Sri Ram: Throughout your evidence cross-examined, you said "We did not want the prime minister's cheque to come out on Facebook". When you said we; who are you referring to?
Wong: The Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Sri Ram: That is just fiction. The PMO is fiction. It's made up of human beings, so when you say the PMO, who are you referring to?
Wong: We... myself and the prime minister.
Wong also told the High Court that he was introduced to Lim through Najib, when he took on the job as one of Najib's three political secretaries.
He described Lim as the man mobilising the grassroots for Najib's activities as the Prime Minister.
In a following cross-examination by Najib's lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Wong said the main thrust of the Facebook page was for users of the social media platform to receive "fully correct information" from the government.
Wong had also received a cheque dated Jan 21,2012, amounting RM30,000 signed by Najib, but could not remember exactly when he received the cheque.
He believed that the amount was paid to political analysts. There was also another RM2,600 cheque dated May 29,2012, which Wong could not recall.
Shafee: The cheque, which is a smaller amount of RM2,600, you cannot remember what?
Wong: I cannot remember.
Shafee: It could be your own disbursement or something that you did on behalf of the government or prime minister?
Wong: Cannot be. I can't remember this. I tried to check with my own bank to get the statement, even the bank couldn't trace it.
Shafee: It could be for another political analyst or anything like that?
Wong: It can't be that cheap.