SRC trial: Ex-AmBank manager says told to leave after news of RM42m scandal broke in 2015

Former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, July 23, 2019. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, July 23, 2019. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — The accounts relationship manager who oversaw Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s three personal AmBank bank accounts was asked to vacate her position within the bank when news broke of the RM42 million flowing through Najib’s accounts back in 2015.

Joanna Yu Ging Ping, who was an AmBank accounts relationship manager from 2010 till 2015, told the High Court today how she and a colleague, Daniel Lee, were asked to vacate their positions by the management around the same time the bank was fined by Bank Negara Malaysia for non-compliance involving its failure to report suspicious transactions in Najib's account.

Yu, the prosecution’s 54th witness, made the revelation during cross-examination by Najib’s lawyer Harvinderjit Singh during the former prime minister’s RM42 million SRC International corruption trial.

Harvinderjit: When did you leave AmBank?

Yu: I left in 2015.

Harvinderjit: You left or were you asked to leave?

Yu: I was asked to go. I believe they (the management of AmBank) were under pressure (following the reports), and I was asked to leave. Daniel was asked to leave, and only Krystal Yap stayed on for a while.

Harvinderjit: You were asked to leave because of your involvement of the accounts?

Yu: I believe so.

Yu was about to explain the terms of her separation with AmBank before she and Harvinderjit were interjected by ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram, who produced a contract believably containing non-disclosure agreements.

According to a verified news report in 2015, AmBank Group previously confirmed a RM53.7 million fine by BNM as a result of a breach of certain regulations under Sect 234 of the Financial Services Act 2013 and Sect 245 of the Islamic Financial Services Act 2013 by AmBank (M) Bhd and AmBank Islamic Bhd, respectively.

A previous witness and BNM officer Ahmad Farhan Sharifuddin testified how AmBank was penalised over its failure to report suspicious transactions into Najib’s accounts from the time these were opened until they were closed.

Ahmad Farhan had said a penalty was imposed on the commercial bank several months after BNM raided the AmBank Jalan Raja Chulan branch on July 6, 2015, without disclosing the amount of the fine.

Over the course of two days, Yu testified and had agreed with Harvinderjit that she had kept in contact with fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, also Jho Low, related to issues of overdrafts concerning Najib’s personal accounts.

She had explained that Low was seen as a person who could remedy banking issues she faced managing Najib’s accounts, specifically pertaining to obtaining written instructions from the mandated account manager and former SRC International chief executive Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.

Today, as Harvinderjit and Yu went through chat logs obtained from her Blackberry device confiscated in 2015, the banker had agreed that the chats showed she had also taken instructions from Low himself concerning the bank accounts despite Nik Faisal being the rightful contact person.

However, she clarified that instructions of such were only conveyed through Blackberry Messenger (BBM) chats, and normally involved account balance inquiries, and making sure cheques issued by Najib doesn’t bounce.

Harvinderjit: Is it your position here that you never followed any instructions of Jho Low, pertaining to accounts?

Yu: He did say ‘do not allow the cheques to bounce’, and I did that. I did follow when he said do not allow the cheques to bounce, and when he said wait for payment (to settle the overdraft), and we would wait.

Harvinderjit: You continually followed instructions from Jho Low, for the purposes of these accounts, on these matters, you agree?

Yu: Only those pertaining to the current accounts, when he had asked ‘what’s the balance, Datuk Seri (Najib) is issuing cheques.’

But the former wholesale banker clarified that instructions of fund transfers out of Najib’s accounts still required written instructions from the mandated person Nik Faisal, or the account holder himself, adding that cheques could only be issued by the account holder himself.  

Najib is currently on trial seven charges of alleged abuse of position, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust over RM42 million of funds from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

During the course of the trial, witnesses have testified that Retirement Fund (Incorporated) granted a total of RM4 billion in loans in August 2011 and March 2012 to SRC International, with money allegedly flowing through other companies before being transferred into Najib’s accounts.

The trial before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali resumes tomorrow.

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