KUALA LUMPUR: A late-night discussion on the closing of three bank accounts belonging to Datuk Seri Najib Razak was held between a former AmBank relationship manager and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low (pic) in 2014, the High Court here has heard.
Joanna Yu Ging Ping, 52, who handled the ex-prime minister’s accounts at the time, told the court yesterday that she communicated with Low through BlackBerry Messenger on the night of Dec 4, 2014.
She was referring to text messages brought up by Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at Najib’s trial involving the misappropriation of RM2.3bil of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds, Bernama reported.
Muhammad Shafee said that according to the chats, Low texted to Yu that “Mr Cheah (then AmBank managing director) is leaving the board at the end of this month and we don’t have access to the account holder. May I please suggest that we close the accounts?”
Low then further said: “Now it’s Ashok and Ashok is going to engage with the Bank Negara tomorrow to ‘update’ on the accounts and understand that he is also contemplating updating the Chief Risk Officer (who is head of compliance as Bank Negara may call CRO directly at times). Please talk to Cheah about this as Ashok has a tendency to ‘update’ the board on the matters.”
Muhammad Shafee said according to the chats, Yu then replied to Low: “Crazy....’update’ the board? it is nuts? ...this is confidential.”
After reading out the late-night chat, Muhammad Shafee asked the witness if she had initiated the idea, to which Yu replied: “The suggestion to close Najib’s accounts initially came from the then group managing director of the bank, Ashok Ramamurthy, as he felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the accounts.
“I was asked to close the accounts by Ashok. It was just a conversation that we had in the bank,” said the 41st prosecution witness.
Muhammad Shafee: What was in Ashok’s mind to close the three accounts of the sitting PM?
Yu: There were many issues with the accounts, namely that they were overdrawn and that large deposits were made.
Muhammad Shafee: I’m putting it to you that Ashok was a “straight banker” and a “no-nonsense banker”, and that if details of the accounts were revealed, you would be afraid of being “discovered” for working in tandem with Jho Low?
The witness also disagreed with Muhammad Shafee’s suggestion that she was complicit with Low in working to cover up the goings-on with the accounts.
The lawyer then moved on to Yu’s purported reasons for her termination, stating that one of the reasons for her being fired was that she had obtained approval from a third party, namely Low, in relation to Najib’s accounts.
Muhammad Shafee: One of the allegations was that you sought approval from a third party, who was in fact a total stranger to Najib’s accounts?
Yu: The third party they mentioned was Jho Low, and I didn’t have a written letter from Jho Low or Najib.
At this juncture, the lawyer sarcastically said the witness was not operating a coffee shop where she could act on verbal instructions.
Najib, 70, is facing four charges of using his position to get bribes totalling RM2.3bil from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering.
The hearing before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues next Tuesday.