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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ringgit affected if US$600m leaves Najib's account - banker


1MDB TRIAL | A banker testified that the foreign exchange market would take position and affect the value of the ringgit if participants find out that US$600 million was transferred out of then-premier Najib Abdul Razak’s account.

Yap Wai Keat - who is the head of AmBank’s capital market desk - was giving oral evidence in this afternoon's RM2.28 billion 1MDB corruption trial against Najib.

During cross-examination by defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed, the 38th prosecution witness was explaining the reason why the accused's account ending with 694 with the commercial bank was designated as "AmPrivate Banking MR" rather than his name.

The lawyer was asking why, despite the designation, Yap was still able to testify that the bank account belonged to Najib.

Wan Aizuddin was specifically asking about the inflow of around US$20 million (RM60,629,839.43) into Najib's account from Prince Faisal Turki Bandar al-Saud between Feb 24th and June 14th, 2011, in two tranches of around US$10 million each.

Yap explained that Najib's then relationship manager Joanna Yu told him (Yap) that she made this designation as the accused then was a politically-exposed person (PEP).

Joanna Yu

The witness said Yu told him this while arranging for the foreign exchange conversion of millions of dollars into ringgit into Najib's account.

Yap said the account's designation would prevent outsiders - such as participants in the foreign exchange market - to find out about any large transaction flowing into or out of the account.

Yap: We (AmBank) try not to expose the identity of the customer to outsiders.

Wan Aizuddin: What makes it (Najib's account) sensitive?

Yap: First, he (Najib) was the prime minister at the time, and the transaction amount was quite large. If the market knows the amount, the market would take a position ahead and affect the ringgit's value.

Wan Aizuddin: Just say the beneficiary was not Najib. Would that change the position in the market?

Yap: No, as US$10 million would not affect much, and with US$600 million since we have to be more careful, hence Joanna (Yu) made the AmPrivate Banking MY for Datuk Seri (Najib), that is what I know about the beneficiary's name.

At this juncture, Wan Aizuddin reminded Yap that the cross-examination was not in relation to the US$620 million that flowed out of Najib's account but instead on the US$20 million, to which the witness got back to replying specifically on the latter transaction.

Proceedings before trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues this afternoon as well as Monday next week (Oct 3).

Back in 2016, then attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Najib of wrongdoing in the 1MDB affair, claiming Najib received US$681 million (RM2.08 billion) in donations from Arab royalty and returned US$620 million of the donation.

Massive amount of transactions

Previously, during the 1MDB graft trial, AmBank's Jalan Raja Chulan branch manager, R Uma Devi, testified that RM2.08 billion went into Najib’s account ending with 694 in nine tranches between March and April 2013 and that RM2.03 billion flowed out via five transactions between Aug 2 and Aug 23, that year.

Najib is on trial for four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.28 billion from 1MDB.

In relation to the four abuse of power charges, the Pekan MP was alleged to have committed the offence at AmIslamic Bank Berhad’s Jalan Raja Chulan branch in Bukit Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur, between Feb 24, 2011, and Dec 19, 2014.

On the 21 money laundering counts, Najib is purported to have committed the offences at the same bank between March 22, 2013, and Aug 30, 2013.

In the prosecution's opening statement at the beginning of the trial back on Aug 28, 2019, lead deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram contended that the crime was allegedly committed through four phases spanning from 2011 to 2014.

Prosecutors contended that the first nine money laundering charges relate to alleged receiving of RM2,081,476,926 which forms the subject matter of the amended third charge and that the monies purportedly fell into the accused's account ending 694 with AmIslamic Bank.

The prosecution claimed that between Aug 2, 2013, and Aug 23, 2013, the accused transferred a sum of RM2,034,350,000 to Tanore Singapore.

Former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali

Prosecutors alleged that simultaneously, the accused had used the balance of RM22,649,000 to pay four entities and one individual, as the prosecution's case is that all these payments purportedly benefitted the accused.

They also contended that Najib received US$20 million (RM60,629,839.43) of 1MDB’s funds from Prince Faisal via two tranches of US$10 million each - the first tranche was on Feb 24, 2011, and the second tranche on June 14, 2011.

The prosecution contended that the wrongdoing at 1MDB was carried out by fugitive businessperson Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) and several others, with Najib’s blessing.

The accused’s defence team, however, claimed that the former prime minister had no knowledge of the crime perpetrated at 1MDB and the embezzlement was solely masterminded by Low and other members of the fund’s management.

Uma Devi also previously testified for the prosecution in a separate criminal trial against Najib involving RM42 million of funds from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

Both 1MDB and SRC International are fully owned by the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc).

Najib also used to be adviser emeritus to SRC International.

The BN advisory chairperson is serving a 12-year jail sentence, after the Federal Court on Aug 23 dismissed his appeal against the SRC International conviction over seven criminal charges, as well as the custodial term and RM210 million fine in lieu of an additional five years in jail. - Mkini

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