Najib should have sued Ambank, officer, in 2016, not after being charged, court told

Lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar says the former prime minister only filed a civil suit last December after Joanna Yu had testified against him in the SRC trial.

KUALA LUMPUR: Najib Razak should have sought legal remedy against AmBank and its former relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping soon after the then attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared him of wrongdoing in the SRC International and 1MDB cases in early 2016, the High Court heard today.

Lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar said the former prime minister only filed a civil suit last December after Yu had testified against him in the SRC trial.

“The action was filed after Yu had given evidence on behalf of the prosecution between July and August last year,” the lawyer, who is representing Yu, said in his submission.

AmBank, AMMB Holdings Berhad and Yu early this year applied to strike out a lawsuit brought by Najib.

Najib, in his suit, claimed that Yu and the banks had breached their duties under banking laws, such as the Financial Services Act and the Banking and Financial Institution Act, to protect his privacy.

Najib alleged that Yu had communicated the details of four of his five bank accounts to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho as he was not the authorised person to manage his accounts.

He claimed that Yu was acting on Low’s advice such as using alternative names for all his accounts ending with the numbers 694, 880, 898 and 906, seeking advice on approving cheques under these four accounts, as well as taking active steps to hide the bank accounts’ statements from him.

Nijar said Najib did nothing after Apandi cleared him and only filed the suit against the bank after he was charged in the SRC case where Yu was a witness.

Apandi’s predecessor Abdul Gani Patail had set up a task force in July 2015 to probe into the RM2.6 billion found in Najib’s private accounts following revelations by the foreign media.

Apandi, who replaced Gani, exonerated Najib of any wrongdoing in January 2016 after nearly six months of investigations into the RM2.6 billion said to have come from an Arab royal family.

However, Apandi’s successor Tommy Thomas charged Najib with abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust and another three counts of money laundering involving RM42 million that belonged to SRC, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

Last month, High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali sentenced Najib to 12 years jail and fined him RM210 million after finding him guilty on all seven charges.

Najib has filed an appeal.

The 1MDB trial where Najib faces four charges of abusing his position to obtain gratification totalling RM2.3 billion and 21 counts of money laundering involving the same money is on-going.

Nijar today said that to allow Najib to mount his claim against Yu would amount to an abuse of process as Nazlan had found him guilty in the SRC case.

“Yu’s evidence is certainly protected under witness immunity. It cannot be used now against her to impute personal liability,” he said in urging the court to annul Najib’s action.

AmBank’s counsel Yoong Sin Min submitted that Najib was using this suit to bolster his defence in the SRC criminal case.

“It is a frontal attack on the fact finding process of the criminal court and relitigates on the same facts through this civil suit,” she added.

Najib’s counsel, Harvinderjit Singh, in reply said the striking out application must be dismissed and the merits of the case must be heard.

“In the SRC case, there were no constructive findings against Yu and the banks. The outcome in this civil case has no bearing on what Nazlan concluded in the SRC trial,” he added.

Judge Khadijah Idris will deliver her ruling on Sept 28.