KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Former AmBank group managing director Cheah Tek Kuang told the High Court here Wednesday (July 17) that he met fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, at Datuk Seri Najib Razak's house in Jalan Langgak Duta pertaining to the former prime minister's request to open bank accounts in Ambank.
Cheah, 72, said that in mid-January 2011, at 7pm, he was taken in a car that drove him straight to the personal residence of Najib in Jalan Langgak Duta here to discuss the opening of the bank accounts.
"I was provided with copies of the bank account and credit card opening forms by Miss Joanna (Joanna Yu Ging Ping, a relationship manager at AmBank).
"As far as I recall, the forms were blank and have not been filled up (sic) with the details of the client as required by the bank.
"Once I arrived at Datuk Seri Najib's residence, I met with Mr Low Taek Jho, who is also known as Jho Low, whom I have previously met.
"I was then taken into the residence by Jho Low who then introduced me to Datuk Seri Najib, and Jho Low also informed him that I was from AmBank. Datuk Seri Najib and I proceeded to the guest room while I saw Jho Low waiting at a different part of the residence.
"I explained the procedures of opening bank accounts with AmBank to Datuk Seri Najib and he also mentioned that the opening of the said accounts must follow the rules and regulations of the bank, and I am obligated to inform the Central Bank of Malaysia on the opening of the said accounts because Datuk Seri Najib is a politically-exposed person," he said when reading out his witness statement during Najib's SRC International Sdn Bhd trial which entered its 39th day today.
He said he then provided the blank bank account and credit card opening forms to Najib who proceeded to sign all the forms.
"My meeting with Datuk Seri Najib lasted for about 20 minutes and once done, I was driven home.
"The next day, I gave the signed forms to Miss Joanna to proceed with the opening of the said accounts and the credit card application for Datuk Seri Najib," said the 50th prosecution witness.
Earlier he said AmBank began its involvement with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in 2009 when 1MDB became a corporate client of AmBank.
He said he began to be personally involved with the private bank accounts of Najib during the end of 2010.
"In early January 2011, while I was at work in the AmBank Head Office, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur, I was approached by Miss Joanna Yu Ging Ping, a relationship manager at AmBank, who informed me that Datuk Seri Najib, the prime minister of Malaysia then, had expressed an interest to open savings and current accounts with AmBank.
"I then met with the AmBank chairman, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, in his office, to discuss the matter of Datuk Seri Najib's interest to open the said accounts. Tan Sri Azman instructed me to attend to this matter.
"I then proceeded to contact the late Datuk Azlin Alias who at that time was the special officer to Datuk Seri Najib to find out from him the time and place for me to meet with Datuk Seri Najib.
"I contacted Datuk Azlin Alias because I know him since 2009 and I know that he was the special officer to Datuk Seri Najib," he said.
Cheah said that after meeting Najib at his house, he then made an appointment to see the Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia at that time, Tan Sri Zeti Aziz.
He testified that a few days later he met Zeti in her office where he informed her of the opening of the said accounts with AmBank by Najib.
"Tan Sri Zeti informed me that she has no objections for AmBank to do so but reminded that the opening of the said accounts is to be made following the banking rules and regulations.
"I refer to the savings account opening form stated with the name and signature of Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak dated Jan 18, 2011.
"The type of account opened is basic savings account with the account number 211-002-009048-1. I recognise the savings account opening form and confirm this is the said form referred to.
"I refer to the current account opening form stated with the name and signature of Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak dated Jan 13, 2011.
"The type of account opened is current account with the account number 211-202-200969-4. I recognise the current account opening form and confirm this is the said form referred to. I refer to the credit card application form stated with the name and signature of Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak dated Jan 13, 2011," he said.
Cheah also said two credit cards were approved under the name of Datuk Seri Mohd Najib, which are Visa Platinum card number 4585818000005496 and MasterCard Platinum card number 5289438000038961.
"I recognised the credit card application form and confirm this is the said form referred to. In relation to the 'AmPrivate Banking-MR' code name used for the above mentioned current account, this code name is reserved for this current account of Datuk Seri Najib.
"I was informed by Miss Joanna that the reason for the code name is based on the query made by Jho Low who had requested for the account to be dealt with the strictest confidence.
"I am not sure who decided the exact code name to be used for this account. I only know that there were discussions to use a code name for the protection of information and to maintain sensitivity. I also subsequently informed the Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia of this matter.
"After the opening of the accounts, I am usually updated by Miss Joanna and her team who had acted as the relationship manager for the said accounts. As far as I can recall, there were many transactions for the said accounts but I did not keep records of them," he said.
The witness said soon after, he was no longer informed of any further actions taken in relation to the personal accounts of Najib as he retired from AmBank in April 2012.
Cheah also said he was appointed as a member of the Retirement Fund Incorporated (KWAP) Investment Panel for the first time in 2007 but left for a year due to health reasons.
He said once he recovered, he was reappointed as a member of the KWAP Investment Panel until now.
"As for SRC's application for an additional term loan financing amounting to RM2bil also, I did not attend the KWAP Investment Panel meeting that discussed and deliberated the proposal paper.
"I was only informed later that KWAP has approved the additional loan of a further RM2bil to SRC as another government guarantee was also provided for the additional loan.
"In my experience as a member of the KWAP Investment Panel, the two separate loans given to SRC amounting to RM4bil in total are one of the largest loans ever agreed and approved by KWAP," he said.
After he completed reading out his witness statement, Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim asked him whether he can recognise Najib, Cheah replied, "Yes" and looked at Najib who was sitting in the dock.
Asked whether he can recognise Jho Low if the prosecution showed him Jho Low's pictures, the witness said "Yes".
Najib, 66, is facing three counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abusing his position and three counts of money laundering involving SRC International funds amounting to RM42mil.
The hearing before justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues Thursday (July 18). – Bernama