AmBank: Najib's trial has not affected us, we improved after 'largest' RM53.7m fine in 2015

AmBank CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir (pic) says Datuk Seri Najib Razak's corruption trial has not impacted the bank’s business. — Picture by Razak Ghazali
AmBank CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir (pic) says Datuk Seri Najib Razak's corruption trial has not impacted the bank’s business. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 ― Datuk Seri Najib Razak's ongoing corruption trial over alleged crimes committed using AmBank accounts has not affected the bank's business, its CEO said.

AmBank CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir was responding to a question on whether the scrutiny brought about by the trial has been “bad for business.”

“It has not impacted our business. As everyone knows, we were the only financial institution (FI) fined for breach of regulations in terms of non-compliance.

“RM53.7 million was the largest fine ever imposed on any FI in Malaysia,” he said in an interview with local financial weekly The Edge.

Sulaiman pointed out that AmBank had also taken measures to prevent the breach of regulations from re-occuring.

“Much has been done to improve and enhance our processes and internal systems to ensure that we will not have a repeat of non-compliance.

“In addition, AmBank agreed with Bank Negara to commence a four-year programme during which we have set aside RM25 million per annum for investment in systems, infrastructure and training.

“This series of measures will enhance the robustness of our processes and is intended to ensure that such circumstances will not happen again in the future,” he was quoted saying by The Edge.

He said the improvements carried out had reduced the fees AmBank has to pay government agency Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia ― which protects bank depositors against the loss of their insured deposits in banks if the latter fail.

“We are an open book. In fact, my fees to PIDB (Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Bhd) have come down, a reflection of our improved risk profile,” he also said.

According to The Edge, Bank Negara Malaysia imposed the RM53.7 million fine on November 23, 2015 ― the first day of Sulaiman's role as AmBank Group CEO.

On November 23, 2015, AmBank Group had in a Bursa Malaysia announcement said it had agreed to pay Bank Negara Malaysia's fine of RM53.7 million due to non-compliance with regulations.

AmBank Group had then said the penalty was due to AmBank (M) Berhad and AmBank Islamic Berhad's non-compliance of regulations, and that the penalty was meted out in line with the Financial Services Act 2013's Section 234 and the Islamic Financial Services Act 2013's Section 245.

AmBank did not provide further details of the non-compliance then, but said it had started its own review that has led to the strengthening of its governance structure and was co-operating with and providing information to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

On May 8, BNM officer Ahmad Farhan Sharifuddin confirmed in court that BNM fined AmBank around November 2015 for the offence of failing to report suspicious transactions with Najib's AmBank accounts.

The former prime minister had a total of five AmBank accounts (one savings and four current) registered with AmBank's Jalan Raja Chulan branch, according to bank documents revealed in court throughout the trial.

Millions of ringgit were alleged to have flowed in and out of Najib's accounts in his ongoing trial involving seven charges of abuse of position, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust in relation to RM42 million belonging to former 1Malaysia Development Berhad's (1MDB) subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.

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