I met Jho Low in Najib’s house, bank officer tells court

Cheah Tek Kuang.

KUALA LUMPUR: The corruption trial of Najib Razak heard today that the then-prime minister opened current and saving accounts in AmBank as he was expecting up to US$200 million in donations from Saudi Arabia.

Cheah Tek Kuang, who was the group managing director of the bank in 2011, said Najib also told him to follow all banking procedures.

“The then-prime minister informed me that the accounts were opened in AmBank as he was expecting between US$100 million and US$200 million from Saudi Arabia as donations,” the 50th witness said under cross-examination by lawyer Harvinderjit Singh.

Cheah, now a non-executive director of AmBank, said he later met Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz about the matter.

“She said the central bank had no objections against AmBank doing so but reminded that banking rules and regulations must be complied with,” he said.

Earlier, examined by deputy public prosecutor Suhaimi Ibrahim, Cheah said in early January 2011 he was approached by Joanna Yu Ging Ping, a relationship manager with the bank, who informed him that Najib had wanted to open savings and current accounts.

“I then met with AmBank chairman Azman Hashim in his office to discuss the matter. He asked me to personally attend to it,” he said.

Cheah said he met Najib at the latter’s private residence in Jalan Langgak Duta here around 7pm in January 2011 to discuss opening the accounts.

“Once I arrived, I met Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low) whom I had previously met. He introduced me to Najib. We proceeded to the guest room while I saw Jho Low waiting at a different part of the residence,” he said.

On April 29, AmBank Raja Chulan branch manager R Uma Devi testified that based on bank records between 2011 and 2013, RM2.6 billion (US$681 million) went into an account belonging to Najib which was opened on Jan 13, 2011.

She said records revealed the RM2.6 billion came as a donation and gift from Faisal bin Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family, as well as from Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners.

It was revealed that RM304 million was deposited into the account in 2011, RM756 million in 2012 and RM1.9 billion in 2013.

On Aug 23, 2014, RM2.034 billion (US$620 million) was remitted out of the country, she had said when also cross examined by Harvinderjit.

She said Najib then transferred RM162 million to a new account number ending 880, while the earlier current account ending with the number 694, was closed.

Najib is facing six charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust (CBT) in the transfer of RM42 million to his account from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.

He is also accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc.

He was charged with committing the offences at AmIslamic Bank Bhd in Jalan Raja Chulan and the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya between Aug 17, 2011, and Feb 10, 2015.

Hearing before judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues.