KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — Fugitive Low Taek Jho had in 2014 claimed that former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had only wanted then Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz to be shown letters of purported promises of donations from an alleged Saudi prince, but without letting her keep records of such letters, the High Court heard today.
Throughout his trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds, Najib’s lawyers had repeatedly suggested that the money which entered his personal bank accounts were purported donations from the Saudi royal family.
While testifying as the 41st prosecution witness in this trial, former AmBank banker Joanna Yu was shown a June 27, 2014 BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) message from Low to her.
In that message, Low had said: “PM said gift letter is not to be given to anyone for record not even bank, says only for Mr Cheah to show governor and take back, governor shouldn’t have a copy and should refer to PM if needed.”
While she was handling transactions for Najib’s personal AmIslamic bank accounts in the past, Najib’s authorised account handler Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil had repeatedly said the huge sums of money coming in were a “gift”, even when the sender of funds had in bank documents said the money was sent to Najib as a “loan” or “loan agreement”.
As Yu had asked for proof that the funds coming in to Najib’s accounts were a “gift”, AmBank was supplied with four letters by the purported prince HRH Prince Saud Abdulaziz Majid Al-Saud in 2011, 2013, and 2014 to confirm the purpose of the incoming funds is a “gift” to Najib
Asked to explain what she had understood from Low’s June 2014 message, Yu said she took it to mean that the letters given to AmBank to confirm the funds were gifts from a Saudi prince are to be given to the bank’s former managing director Cheah Tek Kuang for when he meets with BNM governor Zeti.
Asked the purpose of Low’s message, Yu said it was “to make sure those letters are not given to the public, it’s supposed to be treated as confidential”.
She confirmed that Low’s message meant that not even Bank Negara was to be given the Saudi prince’s letters to keep as records.
Asked if Cheah had taken back the letters after showing them to Zeti, Yu said: “I gave a copy to Mr Cheah, I’m not sure whether he took back.”
Asked if she had conveyed those BBM messages by Low to Cheah, Yu said: “Yes, I mentioned, if anything, the governor can actually refer back to the account holder.”
Previously in this trial, Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed had shown four purported letters from the alleged Saudi individual to Najib, including a February 1, 2011 letter promising a gift of US$100 million, a November 1, 2011 letter promising a gift of US$375 million, and a March 1, 2013 letter promising a gift of US$800 million. These would come up to a total of US$1.275 billion in the purported promise of money to be given to Najib as presents.
The fourth letter dated June 1, 2014 was a promise by the purported Saudi prince to give £50 million as a gift to Najib.
The four letters from the purported Saudi royalty had contents that were almost identical except for certain details including the amount and mention of specific bank accounts in the second and third letter, with the first letter signed off by “Saud Abdulaziz AL-Saud”, the second letter and fourth letter signed off by “HRH Prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud”, while the third letter was signed off by “Saud Abdulaziz Al Saud”.
All four letters were careful to say that the donation of hundreds of millions of US dollars and millions of pounds should not be seen as an act of corruption.
On the first day of trial, the prosecution said it would prove that RM2,282,937,678.41 or over RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds had entered Najib’s personal bank accounts from all four phases of the 1MDB scheme.
The prosecution had said it would show that 1MDB funds had been transferred in multiple transactions to Najib’s accounts, namely US$20 million equivalent to over RM60 million from the first phase of the 1MDB scheme, US$30 million equivalent to over RM90 million (second phase), US$681 million equivalent to RM2,081,476,926 or over RM2 billion (third phase), and transactions in British pound that were equivalent to RM4,093,500 and RM45,837,485.70 or a combined total of RM49,930,985.70 million or over RM49 million (fourth phase).
Today, Yu was also shown a BBM message Low sent her on June 19, in which he asked if there was a “need to put PM’s name” or if it was sufficient to use Najib’s bank account number, in case of document leaks.
Explaining the message sent by Low, Yu said: “He reiterated many times to keep confidential Datuk Seri Najib’s account and I believe we had some foreign transactions for funds coming in and informed him all these are reported to Bank Negara, so he asked if we could not put Datuk Seri Najib’s name but just a number.”
Asked by Sri Ram if this was, in other words, “to conceal Datuk Seri Najib’s name from Bank Negara”, Yu answered yes.
Yu confirmed she had replied with a BBM message saying that the “letter is secured / high level in AmBank” and that putting codenames would look “even more suspicious and raises alarms”, explaining that she said they should be upfront and there was no need to put codenames.
Low had replied with messages saying that there was no need to put PM’s name inside the document and to only use the account number as “nowadays very dangerous lah”, to which Yu replied by saying: “OK. Critical that governor is aware.”
Yu explained that she meant it was critical for Bank Negara to be aware.
Previously, Yu confirmed that all four of Najib’s now-defunct current accounts in AmIslamic Bank were given code names, namely AmPrivate Banking-MR for the account ending 9694, AmPrivate Banking-1MY (account 1880), AmPrivate Banking-Y1MY (account 1898), and AmPrivate Banking-MY (account 1906).
Yu previously said that Najib’s accounts was the first time that an individual bank account was given a codename throughout her dealings with private clients, as codenames are normally assigned to certain corporate project accounts.
Yu today agreed that the use of such codenames was possible if the bank’s customer requests for it, and also confirmed that the use of such codenames on banking documents would mean the actual identity of the beneficiary would not be known.