Ex-banker never expected Najib’s accounts would be used for money laundering, court told

KUALA LUMPUR – A former AmBank relationship manager told the High Court here today that she never expected someone would use Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s accounts for money laundering.

Joanna Yu Ging Ping (picture), 52, who handled the former prime minister’s accounts, said this was because she believed that Najib was well aware about transactions in his bank accounts.

She said this when cross-examined by Najib’s lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah at Najib’s trial involving the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

Asked by Muhammad Shafee why Yu and fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low had used ‘American Pie’ to refer to US$ and ‘Satays’ for RM through BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) chats in 2014, the witness said since it was the then prime minister’s account, details had to kept confidential.

“I believe that because Jho Low says don’t disclose the PM’s name. We have to protect the account holder at that time because Jho Low says you never know somebody will use PM’s name and come up with something.

“So, he (Jho Low) said we have to protect PM’s name, and I believe it was a request of Datuk Seri to be kept confidential,” Yu said.

Questioned by Muhammad Shafee whether this could be a money laundering issue, Yu said: This is PM’s account, the PM of Malaysia.

Muhammad Shafee: But the money didn’t come from PM; it came from outside.

Yu: For PM’s account, it didn’t strike me that anybody would use the PM’s account. I mean to do money laundering.

Muhammad Shafee also suggested that the witness is now aware if the information regarding Najib’s accounts had been released, the whole issue of whether the money that came in was ‘kosher’ or legitimate would have been made known a lot earlier and the prime minister would have been protected rather than harmed.

“I believe he (Najib) was being kept informed. Yes, the cheques were being issued, credit cards were being used. I took it that he (Najib) knew what was happening,” Yu replied.

Meanwhile, the 41st prosecution witness told the court that Jho Low and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the former chief investment officer of 1MDB, had informed her to ensure cheques belonging to Najib did not bounce.

Yu disagreed with Muhammad Shafee’s suggestion that Jho Low prevented the cheques from bouncing because that would have alerted Najib about the truth of the state of his accounts, saying that she did not know what transpired between Jho Low and Najib.

Najib, 70, is facing four charges of using his position to get bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering.

For the corruption charges, Najib is alleged to have committed the offences at the Jalan Raja Chulan branch of AmIslamic Bank Berhad at No. 55, Jalan Raja Chulan, Bukit Ceylon here between Feb 24, 2011 and Dec 19, 2014 while the money laundering offences were allegedly committed at the same bank between March 22, 2013 and Aug 30, 2013.

The hearing before Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow. – Bernama / pic TMR File