Jho Low introduced me to Najib, says former AmBank MD

by BERNAMA / pic by BLOOMBERG

AMMB Holdings Bhd (AmBank) former group MD Cheah Tek Kuang told the High Court in Kuala Lumpur (KL) yesterday that he met fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low (picture), at Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s house in Jalan Langgak Duta, KL, pertaining to the former prime minister’s (PM) request to open bank accounts in AmBank.

Cheah, 72, said in the middle of January 2011, at 7pm, he was taken to a car that drove him straight to the personal residence of Najib in Jalan Langgak Duta to discuss the opening of the bank accounts.

“I was provided with copies of the bank account and credit card opening forms by Joanna Yu Ging Ping (a relationship manager at AmBank). As far as I recall, the forms were blank and have not been filled up with the details of the client, as required by the bank.

“Once I arrived at Najib’s residence, I met with Jho Low, whom I have previously met.

“I was then taken into the residence by Jho Low who then introduced me to Najib, and Jho Low also informed him that I was from AmBank. 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 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 on the opening of the said accounts because 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 yesterday.

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 Najib lasted for about 20 minutes and once done, I was driven home.

“The next day, I gave the signed forms to Yu to proceed with the opening of the said accounts and the credit card application for Najib,” said the 50th prosecution witness.

Earlier, he said AmBank began its involvement with 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in 2009 when 1MDB became a corporate client of AmBank.

He said he began to be personally involved with Najib’s private bank accounts during the end of 2010.

“In early January 2011, while I was at work in the AmBank Head Office, Jalan Raja Chulan, KL, I was approached by Yu, who informed me that Najib, the PM then, had expressed an interest to open savings and current accounts with AmBank.

“I then met with AmBank chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim in his office to discuss the matter of Najib’s interest to open the said accounts. 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 Najib, to find out from him the time and place for me to meet with Najib.

“I contacted Azlin because I (have) known him since 2009 and I know that he was the special officer to Najib,” he said.

Cheah said after meeting Najib at his house, he then made an appointment to see the governor of the central bank at that time, Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar 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.

“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 Najib’s name and signature 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 Najib’s name and signature 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 Najib’s name and signature dated Jan 13, 2011,” he said.

Cheah also said two credit cards were approved under Najib’s name, which are Visa Platinum card number 4585818000005496 and MasterCard Platinum card number 5289438000038961.

“I recognise 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 Najib.

“I was informed by Yu 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 this matter.

“After the opening of the accounts, I am usually updated by Yu 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 Inc (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 RM2 billion 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 RM2 billion 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 RM4 billion 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 funds amounting to RM42 million.

The hearing before justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues today. — Bernama