Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 41

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  • Jho Low contacted AmBank relationship manager about Najib opening bank accounts
  • Low requested for Najib’s accounts to be identified by code to ensure confidentiality
  • High transaction volume of inward funds transferred in Najib’s AmBank accounts
  • Najib’s AmBank accounts often overdrawn
  • Low would send AmBank a message that Najib was writing a cheque and he needed to know if the account was overdrawn
  • Low the go-to guy when Najib’s bank accounts were overdrawn
  • Low instructed AmBank to send him Najib’s account statements
  • AmBank didn’t bounce Najib’s cheques due to his position
  • Low personally called AmBank when Najib faced credit card woes in Hawaii
  • Najib never asked about his overdrawn accounts
  • Ex-AmBank manager denies she is a rogue banker, that she was part of a conspiracy with Jho Low to carry out fraudulent transactions on Najib’s accounts
  • Low was asked to close Najib’s accounts over Amla red flag

9am: Dressed in a blue suit, accused Najib Abdul Razak arrives in court and takes a seat at the front row of the public gallery.

Seth Akmal/TMI

Also awaiting the start of proceedings are Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and other members of the prosecution, as well as members of the defence.

9.26am: Proceedings begin with Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali entering the court.

9.27am: Former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu, the 54th witness, takes the stand.

Yu, 48, is currently unemployed. She began working with AmBank, in its investment division, in 1995.

She says she was called for questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by one ‘Tuan Rosli’ early this year.

The questioning was about bank documents on when SRC International-related accounts were opened and closed.

9.34am: Yu says Jho Low contacted her in early 2011 about Najib’s opening of current and savings accounts with AmBank.

She tells deputy public prosecutor Budiman Lutfi Mohamed that Low had also asked whether it was possible for then-AmBank managing director Cheah Tek Kuang to personally facilitate the opening of Najib’s accounts.

Yu says she assisted by providing the forms, and she later received the signed forms from Cheah.

She verifies that the accounts – a savings account and a current account – were opened on January 13, 2011.

9.39am: Two credit cards were approved – a Visa Platinum and a MasterCard Platinum, she says.

She says a code name was used for Najib’s account based on a query by Low, to ensure confidentiality. She says she is not sure who decided the code name.

9.43am: Najib issued a mandate letter on March 10, 2011, allowing then SRC International CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil to carry out written instructions for transactions of more than RM250,000, the court hears. Nik Faisal informed the bank that three more accounts were to be opened under Najib’s name.

9.52am: All statements and chequebooks relating to the accounts were to be kept at the bank, as instructed by Nik Faisal. He also issued an instruction letter dated August 26, 2013, to the bank, stating that:

  1. All statements and communications in relation to the accounts are to be under Faisal; and,
  2. All statements in relation to the accounts are to be handled by Yu and Daniel Lee.

9.56am: Yu and Lee would handle the statements and accounts, and relate them to Faisal, the court hears. Between 2011 and 2015, the accounts recorded a high transaction volume.

There were many inward funds transferred, says Yu, adding that she checked with Bank Negara Malaysia about this.

9.57am: Yu says she usually met and dealt with Faisal on issues relating to the accounts, as he was the mandated holder. She says she would forward written instructions from Faisal to the bank.

9.59am: She says because of Najib’s position, the bank would allow his accounts to be overdrawn. The bank would allow cheques to go through, even if the accounts were overdrawn.

She adds that the bank would contact her and she would then contact Faisal to inform him to immediately remedy the overdrawn accounts.

10am: Yu says on March 3, 2015, she received a request to cancel the MasterCard Platinum and Visa Platinum credit cards by Najib via a letter. She says she was informed by the credit card division that the two cards could not be cancelled because they had an outstanding balance. It was paid on March 10 and then closed.

10.02am: On the same day, she says, Najib wrote an instruction letter for all of his accounts with the bank to be closed, and the balance to be debited into IPSB’s accounts. She says his accounts were constantly overdrawn, and always had to wait for money to be added before cheques could be cleared.

10.08am: Yu says she received an instruction letter to debit funds from Najib’s current account to the two credit cards. The standing instruction was signed by Najib himself.

She says the cards were closed on March 11, 2015 after all outstanding balance was settled. She says Faisal paid off the balance through an interbank giro transaction.

10.13am: Sithambaram begins his examination of the witness. Yu is asked about the scope of her job as a relationship manager. She says her job was to service corporate clients and handle banking products.

She is asked if she could carry out transactions for clients. She says she could not, and she could not check account balances either.

Sithambaram: Could you access the customer account of Najib from your computer terminal?

Yu: No, we (relationship managers) have to contact the branch (Jalan Raja Chulan branch where Najib’s current and savings accounts were). It is client privilege.

10.16am: Yu says she met Low after being introduced to him by a teammate. She says Low approached her teammate for acquisition and funding deals.

Sithambaram: What is the purpose of a mandate letter and mandate holder?

Yu: The mandate holder acts on behalf of the account holder.

Sithambaram: Did you get instructions from Najib beyond the mandate holder’s authority?

Yu: We received instructions in writing from Najib on the closure of all the accounts.

10.20am: Yu tells the court that only Najib was allowed to issue cheques from his current accounts.

She testifies that Faisal, who was mandated to act on Najib’s accounts, could not issue cheques on his behalf.

Yu added that Faisal also could not withdraw or take out money from these accounts.

10.30am: Yu says that she would sometimes contact Low on instructions concerning Najib’s accounts.

She testifies that this happened when she could not get hold of Faisal.

Under examination-in-chief, Yu adds she only received written instructions from Faisal, which she would then forward to the Jalan Raja Chulan branch of AmBank.

10.34am: Yu says the bank would contact only Nik Faisal if the accounts were overdrawn.

10.39am: Yu goes through BlackBerry communications she had with Faisal. She says generally, her chats with Faisal were on the accounts, and were mostly to remind him that the accounts were overdrawn.

She says Faisal told her that she had to figure out a better way to resolve the overdrawn accounts issue.

10.46am: Yu says reminding Faisal to give payment instructions was “typical”, and that if he was in town, the bank would usually get such instructions from him. If he was out of town, however, it was very difficult to get the instructions, and the bank would have to “scramble”.

She says there were constantly “overdrawn situations” when funds were urgently needed, whether for the accounts or credit cards.

She tells the court that she also contacted Low with regard to Najib’s accounts.

Sithambaram: Why were you dealing with Jho Low if he was not a mandate holder?

Yu: Low wasn’t the mandate holder to give us written instructions. He was the facilitator of the account when it was to be opened. He was the contact person before the mandate was given to Faisal. Many times, he would send a message that Najib was writing a cheque, and he needed to know if the account was overdrawn.

10.51am: Sithambaram asks what were the circumstances that led Yu to believe that Low was a facilitator.

Yu: There were times I told him the account was overdrawn, and I couldn’t get to Faisal. He would arrange for payments to be made. He was able to help with the overdrawn account.

She says she communicated with Low via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). She says he would always address the overdrawn accounts issue, but the bank has never gotten written instructions from him.

10.54am: Yu testifies that Low would be the person who resolved any issues related to overdrawing on Najib’s AmBank accounts.

“He (Low) would address the overdrawn issue and have the cheques cleared,” she says, adding that Low could accomplish this, even though he himself was never made a mandate holder for the former premier’s accounts.

“At certain instances, I would inform him (Low) as I could not reach out to Faisal, he would say ‘okay’, and then somebody would put in a cash deposit (into Najib’s overdrawn accounts), or he would get Faisal to contact me.”

10.58am: In a BBM chat between Yu and Low in May 2014, the latter enquired If the account was overdrawn: “Please check if account is overdrawn, boss just wrote a big cheque.”

The cheque was for RM10 million, the court hears.

11am: A total of US$130,625.11 (RM466,330) was charged to one of Najib’s credit cards for purchases at the Chanel store in Honolulu, says Yu.

The charge was made on Dec 22, 2014, on Najib’s Visa Platinum card with the card number ending in ‘5496’.

Under examination by DPP Sithambaram, Yu testifies that she received a Blackberry Messenger message from Low at 2.10pm (Malaysian time) on Dec 23, 2014.

Low asked her if the bank’s system could accept a charge of US$100,000 in one purchase.

Reading from a transcript of the chat messages, Yu testifies that Low had forwarded a text message that purportedly originated from Najib.

She says Low told her that it was an urgent matter, and that Najib was in Hawaii, and he had wanted to charge US$100,000 on his card.

She adds that he then communicated with the bank’s credit card department, which confirmed that the transaction had been cleared.

Sithambaram: When you received a message such as this from Low who forwarded what purported to be a message from then prime minister (Najib Abdul Razak), did you have reason to suspect this message at that time?

Yu: No. I assumed it was from Najib. That’s why we checked the credit cards (to see if the purchase cleared).

11.18am: Court takes a short break.

11.44am: Court resumes with Sithambaram continuing his cross-examination.

Yu says she never acted on Low’s instructions without Faisal’s written instruction as the mandate-holder.

11.54am: Yu begins going through further communications she had with Low, which mostly pertain to overdrawn money in Najib’s account.

She is asked why she never contacted Najib when she was unable to reach Faisal.

She replies she did not have his direct contact and that she was following the mandate letter she received.

11.58pm: “The prime minister would not look good if cheques were issued but there were insufficient funds.”

This is Yu’s explanation on why she dealt with Low whenever she could not reach Faisal.

Yu says that as the designated relationship manager for Najib’s accounts, she would still need to resolve and try to prevent any cheques from bouncing due to insufficient balance.

“When there were insufficient funds (in Najib’s accounts), we do not think having the prime minister of Malaysia’s cheques being returned…would be good. He is the prime minister of Malaysia.

“We would then not want it to come out that the prime minister of Malaysia does not have enough funds.”

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12.04pm: Yu says to her knowledge, Najib and Faisal knew she was in communication with Low. She says yes, she dealt with Low and Faisal. She also received communications from Low that “Datuk Seri” would sign documents or had given him instructions for her to carry out. “Datuk Seri” refers to Najib.

To her, this implied that Najib was aware of Low’s actions.

12.15pm: The court hears from Yu that two of Najib’s credit cards were declined when used to perform 16 transactions amounting to €570,000 (RM1.56 million) in August 2014.

According to the witness, these transactions were attempted when Najib was on holiday.

However, she says that 10 other transactions, involving the purchase of RM3.28 million worth of jewellery using the same credit cards went through.

According to Yu, she contacted Low via Blackberry Messenger on Aug 9, 2014, to verify RM3.28 million charged to Najib’s credit cards.

She says that Low replied on the same day saying that Najib was on holiday and that “all is well.”

Low then asked her to contact then-AmBank Group managing director Cheah Tek Kuang to clear a certain amount “for you know what purchase.”

She says there were red flags from Bank Negara Malaysia as the accounts were always overdrawn. She adds that she had told Low and Faisal that the bank wanted to close the account.

She says the purpose of one particular conversation she had with Faisal was aimed solely at urging Najib to close the account.

She says Faisal never enquired as to why the accounts were overdrawn, implying that he appeared to know the reasoning behind it.

1pm: Court breaks for lunch.

2.38pm: Court resumes with Yu taking the stand. She goes through Najib’s current account statements.

2.45pm: RM12,379,063 was deposited into Najib’s two AmBank accounts in 2014 and 2015.

Yu testifies that Najib’s private banking account ending in ‘906’ received a total of RM6,779,063 between June 2014 and March 2015, while the account ending in ‘880’ received RM5.6 million through cash deposits in January and February 2015.

Yu says that banks usually only allow cash deposits if there is a genuine oversight that led to the overdrawing of accounts.

However, Yu adds that the practice of making cash deposits is uncommon, and there is a requirement for the bank to report it to the relevant authorities.

2.46pm: Yu says she was also the relationship manager for SRC’s bank account.

Sithambaram: Why were you appointed relationship manager for SRC?

Yu: SRC was a subsidiary of 1MDB, and we were handling 1MDB.

3pm: Yu testifies that Faisal wrote to the bank in December 2014 to explain the source of the cash deposited into Najib’s bank accounts.

According to Yu, Faisal did this as the financial institution was uncomfortable with the high volume of cash deposits made into three bank accounts – ending in ‘880’, ‘898’ and ‘906’ – belonging to Najib.

She tells the court that Faisal’s letter, dated Dec 24, 2014, confirmed the source of the money was from Najib’s personal funds.

3.20pm: Yu tells the court that Low had instructed that statements to ‘MNR’ – a codename for Najib – be sent either to Faisal or himself. The statements were instructed to be hand-delivered to Faisal.

She adds this instruction was issued after they were reprimanded by Low for sending a credit card statement to Najib’s offices in Putrajaya.

Sithambaram: Was the purpose of this instruction to hide the statements from Najib?

Yu: No, I don’t think it was done for that.

3.25pm: Yu says 20 chequebooks were requested for each current account. With four current accounts, this amounted to 80 chequebooks.

3.28pm: Yu breaks into tears during proceedings, as DPP Sithambaram and defence lawyer Harvinderjit Singh trade verbal blows over the “rogue bankers” linked to the deposit made into Najib’s accounts.

She wells up when Sithambaram asks her about rogue bankers, which Harvinderjit objects to.

The alleged existence of rogue bankers was previously alluded to by the defence at an earlier point during the proceedings.

Sithambaram: Did the account holder accuse you of (being part of a) conspiracy with (1MDB-linked businessperson) Low Taek Jho to carry our fraudulent transactions on these (Najib’s) accounts?

Yu: No (her voice breaks).

Sithambaram: In the trial, we heard an allegation that you are a rogue banker…

Harvinderjit: When the suggestion was made, we did not have the benefit of the (Blackberry) communication (logs), we still do not… For the better part of four hours (today), my learned friend did nothing but refer to the chats.

Sithambaram: Then you withdraw the rogue banker allegation. She is the relationship manager and she can explain about the rogue banker (allegation). If they (the defence) withdraw it, I will not ask.

Turning back to Yu, Sithambaram then asks her whether she was involved with Low in such a way that it led to Najib’s present seven charges.

“There was no conspiracy. Due to (Najib’s accounts) being overdrawn, we contacted Low (so the businessperson can make sure Najib’s account mandate holder Faisal can attend to the bank’s communications),” she says quietly. as her voice continues to crack.

Sithambaram ends his line of questioning. Harvinderjit begins his cross-examination of Yu.

3.39pm: Harvinderjit asks if his client has ever seen any of the documentation or chats that went on in relation to the accounts.

Yu replies that she doesn’t believe that the bank had invited Najib to look at the statement of his accounts.

3.56pm: Harvinderjit begins quizzing Yu on her witness statement, which she drafted with the MACC’s help and read aloud in court earlier this morning.

4pm: Yu says she had met Sithambaram twice before taking the stand. She says she had explained to Sithambaram that she only communicated with Faisal and Low to notify them of overdraft in the account. She says Sithambaram had called her a rogue banker.

Yu says she is not a rogue banker because she was acting on written instructions.

Seth Akmal/TMI

4.30pm: Yu says the resignation of Cheah in 2014 prompted her to tell Low that Najib’s bank accounts should be closed.

Yu adds that this was also due to the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 red flag raised by the bank’s then-group managing director Ashok Ramamurthy.

Pressed by the defence on other relevant reasons, the witness also points to the large cash deposits made to Najib’s accounts.

Yu says she has not been following the trial until she was allegedly called a “rogue banker”. This was during the cross-examination of Uma Devi.

She says Cheah, who previously took the witness stand and said he detested Low, has indeed met with Low for meals. She also says she was not present at these meetings.

4.45pm: Harvinderjit suggests that before 1MDB and even during 1MDB, Low was instrumental in bringing a lot of business to AmBank. Joanna agrees.

4.55pm: She says Cheah had made enquiries about Low’s whereabouts. Harvinderjit suggests that someone wouldn’t ask about a person if there’s no fondness for them. Yu says that it’s not true, as Cheah was asking about Low’s whereabouts because of money matters and not necessarily out of fondness.

Yu also agrees with Cheah’s statement that Low was never on time.

5.10pm: Harvinderjit ends his questioning for the day.

Judge Nazlan allows Harvinderjit’s application for tomorrow’s proceedings to begin at 10.30am.

This is to allow Najib and the defence to attend to a Court of Appeal matter between 9am and 9.30am.

Harvinderjit says the defence is withdrawing their appeal over the alleged defective charges in the SRC case.

Earlier reports:

July 18, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 40

July 17, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 39

July 16, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 38

July 15, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 37

July 11, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 36

July 10, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 35

July 9, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 34

July 8, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 33

July 3, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 32

July 3, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 31

July 1, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 30

June 20, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 29

June 19, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 28

June 18, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 27

June 17, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 26

June 14, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 25

June 13, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 24

June 12, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 23

June 11, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 22

June 10, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 21

May 28, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 20

May 27, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 19

May 15, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 18

May 14, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 17

May 9, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 16

May 8, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 15

May 7, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 14

May 7, Najib Fails in Second Bid to Remove Sri Ram as 1MDB Lead Prosecutor

May 7, Najib Signed Guarantee Letter for RM2B KWAP Loan to SRC, KWAP Rules Breached

May 6, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 13

May 2, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 12

May 2, RM1M Golden Handshake in Final Month as PM for Najib

Apr 30, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 11

Apr 29, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day 10

Apr 29, Court Throws Out Najib’s Application to Strike Out 7 SRC Charges, Trial to Go On

Apr 25, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Nine

Apr 24, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Eight

Apr 24, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Seven

Apr 22, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Six

Apr 18, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Five

Apr 17, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Four

Apr 16, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Three

Apr 15, Najib’s SRC Trial: Day Two

Apr 3, Najib Trial: Day One