Bank Negara knew US$100mil 'Saudi donation' went into Najib's account, High Court told

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court was told that Bank Negara had knowledge that an incoming US$100mil donation was going into former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's private bank account ending 694 in 2011.

AmBank's non-independent and non-executive director Cheah Tek Kuang, who was involved in assisting Najib in opening the account, said that then Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz was also involved in the setting up of the account.

He added that all was done by the book.

The 75-year-old prosecution witness said that he was first informed by Najib's AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu that the Pekan MP wanted to open a bank account.

He said this when reading his witness statement at the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial here on Tuesday (Oct 4).

Yu, who felt that she was only a subordinate, had asked him as the then managing director to handle the process.

Cheah said he had no qualms to handle it but he also felt that it was appropriate for his superior, AmBank chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim, to be the one asking for Najib's signature on the forms.

According to Cheah, Azman, however, declined and instructed him (Cheah) to meet with Najib.

The process to open Najib's account, Cheah said, was rather special due to his stature as the prime minister.

The cheque book, credit card and opening forms were prepared all at once as Cheah said a meeting with the prime minister would not come by easily and all the processes should be done in one go.

Cheah could not recall when the meeting at Najib's Bukit Tunku home was held, but said that Najib mentioned the money that was coming into the new account at the meeting.

"Najib said the money was a contribution from the Saudi Arabia government for his 'Islamic activity'," the witness said.

After meeting with Najib, Cheah had set up a meeting with Zeti to inform the former governor of the opening of the 694 account and that the account would be receiving US$100mil from Saudi Arabia.

Cheah said only he and Zeti were in the "secret meeting" as it involved the interests of the then prime minister.

"It was pertinent for me to inform Zeti of this matter as it involved a politically-exposed person (PEP).

"Zeti took note of the matter and asked that it be done in accordance with the existing regulations of the bank and the central bank," Cheah said.

Following the meeting with Zeti, Cheah said he handed over all the operations to Yu and the operations department chief Ross Foden.

"Foden and his team suggested that they monitor the account with a special codename as it was a sensitive account and to avoid information leak like what had happened to Public Bank in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) case.

"I agreed to the codename 'AmPrivate Banking - MR' for Najib's account to avoid misuse of private information," Cheah said.

A letter was also sent to Zeti to inform of the chosen codename, which would make it easier for the central bank to monitor the account.

"I am unsure if Najib knew about the codename but this is a matter that falls under the bank's operation hence it was the operations duty to choose the codename," he said.

Cheah, whose contract as the managing director ended in 2012, said that after the opening of the account, he was no longer involved with the account's operations.

He was later appointed as the bank's non-independent and non-executive director.

Najib, 69, is facing four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.28bil from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The hearing continues before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Wednesday (Oct 5).

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