Jho Low was AmBank’s alternative contact for Najib’s accounts, ex-manager tells SRC trial

Former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex July 22, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex July 22, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 ― A former AmBank relationship manager told the High Court today that Jho Low was the go-to-person if the bank was unable to contact the main person mandated by Datuk Seri Najib Razak to act for his accounts.

The prosecution’s 54th witness, Joanna Yu Ging Ping testified that she would usually contact Low ― whose full name is Low Taek Jho ― if Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil was unreachable in regards to Najib’s banking accounts in AmBank and the accounts’ common overdraft issues.

Yu earlier confirmed in court Nik Faisal’s appointment as an authorised personnel to manage all five of Najib’s bank accounts after instruction letters signed by Najib to the AmBank branch manager on the official appointment was shown to her for verification during examination-in-chief by ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram.

Between 2011 and 2015, Najib had a total of five AmBank accounts — four current and one savings account.

She further explained that Low’s relationship with Najib had already been established when Najib expressed interest in opening a savings and a current account with AmBank in January 2011.

Sithambaram: Who were you in contact to get written instructions in regards to Datuk Seri Najib’s current accounts?

Yu: I was in contact with Nik, if I cannot get him I would get Jho Low.

Sithambaram: Who is authorised to give you written instructions?

Yu: The mandate holder, Nik Faisal.

Sithambaram: Why did you contact Jho Low when he is not account holder or mandate holder?

Yu: He was not the mandate holder to give us written instructions, he was, however, the person who facilitated the opening of Najib’s first current account. At that time, he was the contact between the account holder and the bank until the mandate holder was appointed. Many times, I received messages from him inquiring on the account balance, whether it was overdrawn or not.

As a mandate holder, Nik Faisal was authorised to make enquiries on the status and details of Najib’s accounts, to confirm all cheques issued for amounts exceeding RM250,000 and to collect all cheque books and bank statements in relation to the accounts.

However, Nik Faisal was unable to make any withdrawal or deposits from Najib’s accounts and fund transfer instructions are only limited between accounts belonging to Najib within the bank.

“It was also not possible for Nik Faisal to withdraw money from Najib’s accounts,” she said, adding that Najib did not complain to the bank about any unauthorised payments made through his accounts.

Asked whether there were other reasons she could think of beside the aforementioned reason, Yu pointed out that Low seemed to be in close contact with Najib and Nik Faisal.

“He seemed to be in touch with account and mandate holder. When I couldn’t reach Nik Faisal, I texted Jho Low, then suddenly I got a call from Nik Faisal,” she said.

Explaining her role as Najib’s relationship manager and not having direct access to Najib’s accounts, Yu, however, facilitated and forwarded any requests received from Najib or Nik Faisal in relation to Najib’s accounts to the relevant product divisions within AmBank.

“All fund transfers between Najib’s current accounts were upon written instructions received from Nik Faisal as permitted within Nik Faisal’s given mandate. As mentioned, I assisted by forwarding the written instructions received from Nik Faisal to the branch for their action,” she said.

Asked why she did not contact Najib personally when the designated mandate holder of the accounts was unreachable, Yu conceded that she did not have direct access to Najib himself.

“I don’t have access direct to Datuk Seri Najib and we have instructions to check with Nik, who is the mandate holder and we have to follow mandate letter,” she said.

She said while Low was not a mandate holder, he often advised her through messages whenever there were insufficient funds in Najib’s accounts.

“He was able to address the issue and say that funds would be deposited and that the bounced cheques (from overdraft) would be cleared,” she added.

According to banking documents produced in court, Najib’s current accounts are listed as 2112022009-694, 2112022011-880, 2112022011-898 and 2112022011-906 while his savings account is listed at 2110020090-481.

Najib’s two older accounts — savings and current — opened in January 2011 were subsequently closed on August 30, 2013 under his instructions in a letter he wrote to the bank branch manager, after opening another three current accounts on July 31, 2013.

Najib has since closed the three newer current accounts as of March 9, 2015.

Najib, who is also Pekan MP, is currently on trial for alleged abuse of position, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust over RM42 million of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, which is a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The hearing before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali resumes tomorrow morning.