In RM2.28b 1MDB trial, ex-banker confirms Najib kept issuing cheques but never asked where money came from
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had continued to use the money in his personal AmBank accounts to issue cheques and make credit card payments but had not asked the bank about the origins of the money that flowed into his accounts, the High Court heard today.
Former AmBank banker Joanna Yu confirmed this while testifying as the 41st prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds. This sum of money from 1MDB was alleged to have entered Najib’s AmBank accounts.
Asked by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib, Yu confirmed that Najib did not question the source of the money he was using.
Akram: Has the account holder, Datuk Seri Najib, ever asked, queried or wrote to the bank where does all this money coming from? He keeps on writing cheques, paying credit cards, has he ever queried or asked orally, verbally to the bank or to you, where does all this money coming from?
Asked if it was possible for Najib to have used the funds in his personal accounts to make payments to issue cheques and to pay for credit card bills without knowing there is money in the bank, Yu said “he would believe there is money inside the bank” for him to make those payments.
She said Najib’s accounts had an auto-debit arrangement to pay for his credit card bills.
Yu said there were multiple cheques issued from Najib’s accounts, but confirmed there were never any complaints or allegations that these cheques were not actually issued by Najib.
Confirming that Najib is the sole signatory of the cheques of the accounts, Yu explained that this meant that cheques issued from Najib’s accounts had to be signed by him personally.
Former Ambank manager Joanna Yu is seen at the compound as she appears for the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case at Kuala Lumpur Court February 8, 2023. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
No complaints from Najib
Throughout the years when she was acting as the AmBank relationship manager for Najib’s private accounts, Yu confirmed she had never received any complaints from Najib himself or his mandate holder Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil that his five accounts were not being operated according to the mandate.
(Najib had previously written to AmBank to inform that Nik Faisal was his mandate holder or authorised person to handle his accounts on his behalf.)
Based on the mandate letters, Yu confirmed that it would not have been possible for Nik Faisal or Low Taek Jho to issue or sign cheques on behalf of Najib, as Najib would have to sign the cheques himself.
Yu confirmed Najib never terminated the mandate letters to appoint Nik Faisal as his authorised account handler.
Asked by Akram, Yu confirmed that Najib and Nik Faisal never accused her of acting beyond her authority while acting as the relationship manager.
Yu similarly confirmed that Najib had not accused her — while she was the relationship manager — of conspiring with Low Taek Jho to carry out unauthorised or fraudulent transactions in his accounts.
Yu confirmed that it was only in December 2019 — which was years later after money worth millions of ringgit allegedly flowed into Najib’s accounts — that Najib had filed a civil lawsuit against her and AmBank over the alleged mismanagement of funds in his accounts.
Yu confirmed the High Court has since struck out Najib’s lawsuit and the Court of Appeal also upheld the dismissal of Najib’s civil lawsuit against AmBank and her.
Lawyer Ahmad Akram Gharib is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex in this February 22, 2019 file photograph. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Akram also referred to the four supposed “donation” letters from a purported Saudi prince, which Najib’s lawyers have been using to claim the former prime minister genuinely believed the huge sums that entered his account were Saudi donations instead of 1MDB funds.
Looking at the letters, Yu said there was no stamp from the prime minister or the Prime Minister’s Office to confirm the letters had been received.
On these four letters, which were only provided as copies and not as the original document to AmBank, Yu confirmed there were only stamp marks by AmBank’s compliance department to acknowledge having received these letters.
The four letters, by the purported Saudi prince Saud Abdulaziz Al-Saud, expressed appreciation for Najib’s work as prime minister of Malaysia, with Yu confirming that all letters were similarly worded apart from differences such as the sum of money which was promised as a purported gift to Najib.
Yu confirmed the letters were addressed to Najib’s personal address at Jalan Langgak Duta, Kuala Lumpur instead of his official address in Putrajaya.
The four letters promised purported gifts to Najib in the form of US$100 million (with the first letter dated February 1, 2011), US$375 million (November 1, 2011 letter), US$800 million (March 1, 2013 letter), and £50 million (June 1, 2014 letter).
Asked why the huge deposits to Najib’s account did not raise her suspicions about the source of the funds, Yu explained that Low had given advance notice that large amounts were coming in and the bank took it that the funds were being sent pursuant to those purported Saudi letters.
Yu said it did not occur to her at all that anybody would misuse Najib’s accounts as it was the prime minister’s accounts.
On the first day of trial, the prosecution had said it would show that RM2,282,937,678.41 or over RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds entered Najib’s accounts through multiple transactions, including through companies linked to Low’s associate Eric Tan.
These are namely US$20 million equivalent to RM60,629,839.43 or over RM60 million from the first phase of the 1MDB scheme, US$30 million equivalent to RM90,899,927.28 or over RM90 million (second phase), US$681 million equivalent to RM2,081,476,926 or over RM2 billion (third phase), and transactions in pounds sterling 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).
Najib’s 1MDB trial before judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow, with Akram expected to ask further questions to Yu under re-examination.