'Overbearing nature' of Najib's wife influenced previous government, court hears

PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Despite not holding any official position, the "overbearing nature" of Rosmah Mansor ensured her influence in the previous administration, says the prosecution.

The trial of the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak over graft charges started on Wednesday (Feb 5) at the High Court here, with the prosecution attempting to prove that Rosmah solicited RM6.5 million (S$2.17 million) in bribes related to a solar hybrid project in Sarawak from Saidi Abang Samsudin, who was managing director to Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, in his opening statement on the first day of the trial, said that the prosecution would attempt to prove that Rosmah solicited the bribe by promising to help Jepak Holdings acquire the contract for the solar hybrid project.

"Saidi wanted to obtain work from the federal government for his company.

"Specifically, he wanted an award of a contract to carry out a solar hybrid project purportedly to benefit some 369 rural schools spread across the interior of Sarawak," said Mr Sri Ram.

He added that a meeting between Saidi and then education minister Mahdzir Khalid on the matter had been unsuccessful.

"Saidi and (his business partner) Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah then approached one Aazmey Abu Talib whom they perceived as being close to the accused's husband in order to obtain support for his request for the contract.

"With Aazmey's help, Saidi managed to obtain a minute from the accused's husband on his letter of application supporting it - but that did not help speed up matters with the Education Ministry," he said.

Mr Sri Ram said that this was when Najib's former aide Rizal Mansor came into the picture.

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"Rizal arranged a meeting between Saidi, Rayyan and the accused.

"The meeting took place between January and April 2016 and it was held in the privacy of the accused's private residence at Jalan Langgak Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

"Saidi wanted the accused's assurance that she would help Jepak. In return, Saidi was prepared to offer a large sum of money to the accused.

"Evidence will be led to show the active role played by the accused to obtain the project for Jepak and in return she solicited and obtained a bribe," he said.

Mr Sri Ram said that Rosmah, through Rizal, sought a "political donation" of 17 per cent of the value of the solar hybrid project contract, which translated to more than RM200 million.

"On Rizal's advice, she agreed to accept 15 per cent (which translated to RM187.5 million).

"It is of importance to note that the accused did not hold any position of responsibility in any political party at that time.

"The accused knew that the so-called 'political donation' was meant as a bribe for her.

"Payment was contingent on her using her influence to obtain the solar hybrid contract for Saidi's company," he added.

Mr Sri Ram told the court that Rosmah had allegedly received RM6.5 million in cash from Saidi in connection with the solar hybrid project.

The first RM5 million was made on Dec 20, 2016, he said.

"This payment was made after the Letter of Award was issued to Jepak by the Education Ministry.

"The money was delivered to the accused's official residence in Putrajaya and received by her after confirming with Rizal that the sum was in fact RM5 million.

"The solar contract was executed on June 20, 2017. Education Ministry then released a series of payments to Jepak. Later, Saidi delivered RM1.5 million in cash to the accused at her Langgak Duta home on Sept 7, 2017," he said.

He said that prosecution would show "direct and circumstantial evidence" that will prove that the Rosmah was "actuated by a corrupt intention at all material times".

The trial continues before High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.

Lawyer Datuk Jagjit Singh is among those representing Rosmah.

On Nov 15, 2018, Rosmah claimed trial to two charges of graft involving RM187.5 million related to projects to provide electricity to schools in Sarawak.

According to the first charge, she was accused of soliciting for herself a RM187.5 million bribe from Jepak Holdings managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, through her former aide Rizal Mansor.

The money was a reward for helping Jepak Holdings obtain a project, through direct negotiations with the Education Ministry, to install solar hybrid systems and for the maintenance and operation of diesel generators for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.

The project, known as "Project Bersepadu Sistem Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Hibrid", was valued at RM1.25 billion; and RM187.5 million is 15 per cent of that amount.

Rosmah allegedly committed the offence at Lygon Cafe, Sunway Putra Mall in Jalan Putra between March and April 2016.

In the second charge, she was accused of receiving RM1.5 million from Saidi as a reward for assisting Jepak Holdings obtain the same project.

The offence was allegedly committed at her house in Jalan Langgak Duta, Taman Duta, on Sept 7, 2017.

On April 10, 2019, Rosmah was charged again for allegedly receiving a bribe of RM5 million from Saidi through Rizal, for the same purpose.

She allegedly committed the offence at Seri Perdana Residence, Persiaran Seri Perdana, Precinct 10, Putrajaya, on Dec 20, 2016.

All of the charges were framed under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.

Rosmah faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, if convicted.