Bank Negara never told of three Arab donation letters addressed to Najib, says Zeti

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara Malaysia was never made aware about three letters regarding Arab donation from an individual alleged to be a member of the Saudi royal family and which were addressed to former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the High Court was told on Thursday (July 27).

Former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the three letters, dated Nov 1, 2011; March 1, 2013 and June 1, 2014; had never been disclosed to the central bank and were only discovered during a joint raid by Negara Malaysia and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) at AmBank on July 6, 2015.

"During the raid it was discovered the account codenamed AmPrivate Banking - MR (Najib’s account) had been closed and the three accounts (also Najib's) that were opened in 2013 had also been closed.

"Neither AmBank nor Datuk Seri Najib had forwarded these letters to Negara Malaysia.

"In addition, two letters purportedly issued to Negara Malaysia by the then group managing director, Ashok Ramamurthy, only surfaced during the investigation by Negara Malaysia in July 2015," she said, adding that there was no record that the two letters dated Sept 21, 2012 and April 30, 2013 were ever sent by AmBank or received by Negara Malaysia.

Zeti, 76, who was Negara Malaysia governor for 16 years from 2000, said this when reading out her witness statement during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib at the former Pekan MP’s trial involving the misappropriation of RM2.3bil from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

Earlier, Zeti said the investigation into 1MDB started after Negara Malaysia received disclosure on a confidential basis on March 13, 2015 regarding a foreign entity that had transferred a major sum of funds to an entity in their jurisdiction that was beneficially owned by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.

Zeti said following the disclosure, she on behalf of Negara Malaysia had met with the then Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar at Negara Malaysia to disclose this information to him, and Negara Malaysia subsequently commenced its on-site examinations on AmBank and Deutsche Bank Malaysia Berhad (DBMB) to verify the allegation that 1MDB had transferred US$700mil out of the US$1bil of funds to an entity called Good Star Limited.

"On March 23, 2015, Negara Malaysia received another disclosure from a foreign authority confirming that a large volume of funds had been remitted into Good Star Limited and confirming the identity of the beneficial owner of the account, which is Jho Low," she said.

Zeti said Negara Malaysia had sent a letter to Najib, who was then the finance minister, to warn him of the increasing debt levels, the repayment challenges faced by 1MDB which in fact subsequently led to the restructuring of a loan from domestic banks.

"In the said letter, Negara Malaysia had also urged Najib to increase the transparency around 1MDB's debt and operations, and to contain any further increase in its debt levels.

"On Jan 16, 2015, Negara Malaysia had written again to Najib regarding its concern on 1MDB and to document the significant potential implications it would have on the government's fiscal position.

"Negara Malaysia highlighted that in such an event, it could result in the immediate crystallisation of an equivalent of RM16.6bil in contingent obligations of the government arising from the explicit guarantees that had been provided for the 1MDB's debt," she said.

To a question by Ahmad Akram whether she was sure the two letters by BNM were received by Najib, Zeti said: "It was hand delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office. However, Negara Malaysia did not receive any response from Najib on the matter."

Ahmad Akram: Was this normal reaction, being silent (not responding) to these letters? Zeti answered, "Not normal."

Najib, 70, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes amounting to RM2.3bil belonging to 1MDB and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial before Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on Aug 14. - Bernama

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