I didn’t know Jho Low spoke to AmBank about my accounts, Najib says

Former prime minister Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Najib Razak told the High Court in his SRC International trial today that he was taken by surprise when he discovered that AmBank had communicated with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho about matters related to his bank accounts.

He said Low, better known as Jho Low, was never authorised to deal with AmBank on his behalf, and that former CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil was the only person empowered to manage his accounts.

“Jho Low chose not to tell me about his involvement in my accounts. I only came to know about it during the course of my trial,” he said, adding that the Penang businessman had taken “active steps” to hide the matter from him.

Najib said this when questioned by his lawyer, Rahmat Hazlan, about the testimony of former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu who said Low had given her instructions via Blackberry Messenger chat.

Yu also said that she would contact Low if she could not reach Nik Faisal.

Najib, who is Pekan MP, said he was also in the dark about the overdrawn status of his AmBank accounts, as well as the fact that Yu would tell Low about the situation whereupon the businessman would deposit some money so that the accounts could continue operating as usual.

“I understand that the overdrawn situations were due to the cheques issued from my accounts.

“Azlin told me that there was enough money in my accounts for the cheques,” he said, referring to his late principal private secretary Azlin Alias.

“I would not have let the cheques be issued if I had known the real situation,” he added.

He also said he was unaware that Low, with Yu’s help, had deposited over RM12 million into his account in stages, or that Bank Negara Malaysia had issued warnings about this.

“If news of the account had broken out, the opposition at the time would have used it against me,” he said, adding that the central bank had not informed him of the situation surrounding his accounts.

When asked why Nik Faisal was authorised to manage all five of his accounts, Najib said it had been Azlin’s decision.

“He (Azlin) took the responsibility of finding a person that could be trusted, and I left it to him,” he said.

As prime minister, Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman at the time, he said, he was busy with other tasks and could not manage his own accounts.

He also said he had not seen his accounts with other banks as Azlin was supposed to oversee such affairs.

“He (Azlin) would tell me how much was in my accounts if I wanted to make any payments.”

R Uma Devi, the manager of the Jalan Raja Chulan AmBank branch, previously told the court that Nik Faisal was appointed to manage Najib’s five accounts there.

She said Najib opened two accounts between Jan 13 and 18, 2011 and closed them on Aug 30, 2015.

The remaining three accounts were opened on July 31, 2013 and closed on March 9, 2015.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Najib faces six charges of money laundering and criminal breach of trust 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.