KUALA LUMPUR: A former AmBank banker today called her four years of managing Najib Razak’s bank accounts a “stressful” experience.
Testifying at the former prime minister’s 1MDB trial in the High Court, former relationship manager Joanna Yu said AmBank was expected to honour all cheques issued through the accounts even if they were overdrawn.
“It (became) stressful and challenging as time went by.
“We were concerned when the accounts were overdrawn and there was pressure on us not to ‘bounce’ (dishonour) the cheques.
“(These were) the prime minister’s accounts, and we could not risk his reputation if cheques were bounced.
What will the repercussions (be) on the bank?” she said during re-examination by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib.
The court previously heard that Najib held five accounts with AmBank between 2011 and 2015.
A savings account ending with “481” and a current account ending with “694” were opened on Jan 13, 2011. They were closed on Aug 26, 2013.
Three other accounts – ending with “880”, “906” and “898” – were later opened on July 31, 2013, and closed on March 9, 2015.
Yu told the court she was shocked when fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) first informed her in 2011 that Najib wanted to open accounts at AmBank.
Asked whether she faced the same pressures if the accounts of corporate or personal banking clients were overdrawn, Yu said: “Our branch has a protocol (when dealing with overdrawn accounts). I believe the branch will close accounts if they were overdrawn (more than) two times.”
However, Yu said a “different set of rules” applied to Najib’s accounts.
She said the bank was expected to give him some “leeway” if his accounts were overdrawn, because he was the sitting prime minister.
Yu said she was not aware of allegations that Najib did not issue some of the cheques.
“It has to be signed by the account holder (Najib),” she said.
She also said no cheques were ever issued through Najib’s accounts to Jho Low.
Najib is facing 25 counts of money laundering and abuse of power over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited into his AmBank accounts between February 2011 and December 2014.
The hearing continues on Feb 9 before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah.