KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court was told that it is common practice in Umno for the party president to be personally in charge of most political funds.
Former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman claimed this on the stand at the SRC International trial, where Datuk Seri Najib Razak faces charges of misappropriation of SRC funds.
Anifah was one of the delegates from Malaysia who was on Najib's official trip to Riyadh between Jan 13 and Jan 16,2010.
The court had earlier heard from a former Malaysian ambassador to Saudi Arabia that the Malaysian delegation had an unofficial meeting with the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud on Jan 11,2010, where the King purportedly made known his intention to give financial aid to Malaysia.
This was confirmed by Anifah in his witness statement. He, however, could not confirm the exact date of the unofficial meeting.
"I am not entirely sure if the unofficial meeting took place a day or two prior to the 13th or the 13th itself.
"Records of unofficial meetings are seldom kept and more so in this case as it was arranged as an addendum to the official visit of the prime minister," he said, adding that he no longer had access to the ministry diary for 2010.
Najib and King Abdullah had a private chat after the unofficial meeting ended.
Anifah said as they were exiting the palace, Najib sought clarification from Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, who was with him during the private chat, as to whether he was correct in understanding that King Abdullah preferred the financial donation he was making be transferred to Najib's personal bank account.
Jamil Khir confirmed the accuracy of Najib's understanding.
"It was understood that King Abdullah did not want this contribution of money to be vaguely disbursed and may pose problems in their disbursement.
"Putting the money in the personal account of the prime minister would bring about easier control," he said.
According to Anifah, Najib then asked him for his opinion on the transfer to his personal bank account.
"I assured him that it did not matter as the donation was to be used for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and political purposes, and it has been a common practice in Umno for the president of the party to be in charge personally of most of the political funds," he said.
During cross-examination by lead prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram, Anifah was grilled about his advice to Najib.
Sithambaram: From your witness statement, it appears that you are the one who advised Najib that it is all right to transfer foreign Arab donation into his private account? Correct?
Anifah: I said I'm sure there is no problem with it.
Sithambaram: Why did you advise that it is all right to transfer?
Anifah: It is for political and CSR purposes.
The witness also agreed to a suggestion that such monetary donation could enhance one's political image and this could be translated into popular vote from the public.
Sithambaram: Did King Abdullah say this fund was for CSR?
Sithambaram: CSR is really wide, did he specify?
Anifah: It is up to Najib.
Sithambaram: Were you there (when King Abdullah said that)?
Anifah: I was not there.
Najib is facing seven charges – three for criminal breach of trust, one for abuse of power and three for money laundering involving SRC International Sdn Bhd funds totalling RM42mil.
The hearing continues before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali on Monday (Feb 17).