‘We didn’t want it to come out that PM of Malaysia didn’t have funds’, ex-AmBank manager tells Najib trial

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex July 22, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex July 22, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — A former AmBank relationship manager disclosed in court today that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reputation as the then prime minister would have been badly damaged if word had leaked that cheques he issued from an overdrawn account had bounced.

The prosecution’s 54th witness, Joanna Yu Ging Ping, explained why she would contact Low Taek Jho — better known as Jho Low — when she could not reach Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the main person mandated by Najib to act for his accounts.

Under questioning from Datuk V. Sithambaram for the prosecution, Yu explained that the bank branch would inform her when Najib issued cheques from the overdrawn account and how she would handle the matter owing the sensitivity of the Pekan MP’s position then as both PM and finance minister.

Sithambaram: You didn’t contact the account holder and you couldn’t contact the mandate holder, why didn’t you just let things take its course because there seems to be blame on you. There are some saying you are (a) rogue banker, is that so?

Yu: We as relationship managers do not handle current accounts. Sometimes, the branch will draw to our attention that Najib’s accounts have an overdrawn situation. Sometimes, we see cheques presented by another account that do not have money. If we do not do this the PM’s cheques would have to be returned. We do not think the PM’s cheques being returned to be good umm, it is not good.

Yu appeared hesitant with her replies at first, perhaps owing to her inability to articulate herself, but regained her composure when Sithambaram pressed her to clarify.

Sithambaram: Not good for what?

Yu: I mean not good, not good for the PM. I mean he is the PM of Malaysia. When you issue a cheque you must have funds we didn’t want it to come out that the PM of Malaysia didn’t have funds.

Later when asked what would have happened if she had not contacted Nik Faisal or Low in regards to the overdraft, Yu said ordinarily the cheque issued by Najib would then bounce.

According to Yu, the overdraft issue in Najib’s bank accounts also drew the attention of Bank Negara Malaysia, with red flags coming from the central bank due to the overdraft frequencies.

Yu pointed out that the financial institution was “stressed with the frequent overdrawn situation, saying that the senior management had proposed to close Najib’s accounts towards the end of 2014.

For example, Yu said there was an instance in early 2015 when the bank alerted that one of Najib’s accounts was overdrawn again, as it was short of RM800,000 to transfer to Solar Shine Sdn Bhd and forewarned that the cheque would be returned.

Solar Shine was named previously during the trial as one of the 15 recipients of cheques totalling over RM10.77 million issued under bank accounts registered under Najib’s name.

“We wanted the accounts to be closed because it was taking too much and we kept saying ‘you can’t keep doing this’. We were trying to get the mandate holder to close the account,” she said.

As the relationship manager designated for Najib’s accounts, she constantly dealt with situations where urgent funds were needed but had no knowledge which of the accounts were overdrawn.

According to her, Najib also did not have any overdraft facility in his accounts and the bank would notify the mandate holder or Low to arrange a cash deposit.

Najib 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.

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