Najib’s trial: AmBank official says 1MDB asked to remove PetroSaudi’s name as US$95m beneficiary and to record bank account number only

·5-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — It was 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that had asked for the company PetroSaudi International Limited (Saudi) to be removed from bank records as the beneficiary of US$95 million of 1MDB funds, a senior AmBank officer told the High Court today.

Salmah Daman Huri, vice president of Treasury Operation Department at Ambank (M) Berhad, said the bank was instead directed to only cite a RBS Coutts bank account number (11116073.2000) as the name of the beneficiary of the US$95 million funds.

Salmah said this while testifying as the 23rd prosecution witness in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds.

While Salmah’s court testimony did not further state who owned this bank account, the High Court had previously in this trial heard that this RBS Coutts account number actually belonged to now-fugitive Low Taek Jho’s company Good Star Limited and that it was not PetroSaudi’s account.

The prosecution had previously said it would prove in this trial that some of the money originating from 1MDB that had flowed into Good Star had eventually reached Najib’s accounts.

According to Salmah, AmBank had on 1MDB’s instructions made a US$30 million (equivalent then to RM90.84 million) payment on May 20, 2011 to PetroSaudi International Limited as the stated beneficiary by putting the money to the RBS Coutts bank account of 11116073.2000.

Salmah said AmBank had on 1MDB’s instructions made a US$65 million (equivalent then to RM199.095 million) payment on May 23, 2011 to the same company as the stated beneficiary through the same bank account number.

But Salmah said AmBank had on May 26, 2011 received an instruction letter from 1MDB to remove the name of the RBS Coutts account which was stated as PetroSaudi International Limited (Saudi) for the US$30 million and US$65 million transactions.

“1MDB also did not notify the new name of the account’s owner in that letter and only ordered the bank to retain the existing bank account number which was 11116073.2000 without placing the name of the account’s owner,” she told the High Court today.

Attached to this letter from 1MDB to AmBank was another letter dated May 25, 2011 from PetroSaudi to 1MDB titled “Request for Swift clarification to be sent from sending bank to receipt bank to confirm beneficiary details being ‘Account No 11116073.2000’ and not ‘PetroSaudi International Limited’”.

Following 1MDB’s May 26, 2011 instruction letter to order AmBank to change the recipient details for the transactions totalling US$95 million, Salmah confirmed that AmBank had then followed those instructions.

She noted that AmBank (M) Berhad had on May 27, 2011 requested JP Morgan Chase Bank to change the details for the US$30 million and US$60 million sums, with the note stating : “As instructed by beneficiary 1Malaysia Development Berhad please be advised that for item 59 should read as follows: Item 59: Account number 11116073.2000 Other details remain unchanged.”

Salmah had also testified of how AmBank had helped a client known only as “AmPrivate Banking - MR” convert US$710,999,952 or over US$710 million in the client’s account to RM2.17 billion or RM2,172,376,853.28 during a period from October 31, 2012 to April 10, 2013.

She did not say who this AmPrivate account actually belonged to.

More about the RBS Coutts account

Even though the RBS Coutts account appeared to be portrayed to bank officials as having links to PetroSaudi International, former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi had testified in this trial that Low Taek Jho had later told him the RBS Coutts bank account 11116073 belongs to Good Star Limited.

Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had previously suggested that 1MDB officers should have known by 2011 that the RBS Coutts bank account number 11116073.2000 belonged to Good Star instead of PetroSaudi, as the strikingly similar account number 11116073 that was identified to be Good Star’s account was also given in 2009 to 1MDB.

Shafee had highlighted the extra ‘2000’ in Good Star’s account number 11116073.2000 was merely in reference to the transactions being in USD, but former 1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi had previously said that 1MDB officers had no reason to be suspicious then and that he had only read in 2015 news reports that Good Star belonged to Low.

As for why 1MDB kept transferring money to Good Star, the transactions were actually purported to be for 1MDB’s investment via a joint venture initially with PetroSaudi and subsequently investments through alleged loans given out to PetroSaudi, but all these have since turned out to be a sham with 1MDB monies lost.

1MDB was initially meant to put all US$1 billion into the joint venture company 1MDB PetroSaudi Limited’s bank account.

But 1MDB had on September 30, 2009 instead followed PetroSaudi’s law firm’s instructions in transferring the money in two separate sums of US$300 million to the JV firm’s Swiss-based JP Morgan account and US$700 million to Good Star’s RBS Coutts account number 11116073.

1MDB later tried to further carry out purported investments by giving out loans to PetroSaudi, including a US$330 million loan that was instead sent in four batches to Good Star’s 11116073.2000 account, namely US$30 million (May 20, 2011), US$65 million (May 23, 2011), US$110 million (May 27, 2011) and US$125 million (October 25, 2011).

The first two transactions match the same amount and date given by Salmah in her court testimony, where PetroSaudi had asked for its name to be removed.

Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah is scheduled to resume next Monday, with Salmah expected to continue testifying.

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