Handling Najib’s accounts stressful and challenging – Ex-banker

A former AmBank relationship manager told the High Court here today that she felt stressful when handling former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s accounts.

Joanna Yu Ging Ping, 52, who handled the former premier’s accounts at that time said she was shocked when Low Taek Jho or Jho Low informed about Najib’s intention to open an account with AmBank.

“I was a bit shocked because I didn’t think the Prime Minister of Malaysia would want to open an account with AmBank. I assumed, he would go to the government banks or Maybank.

“So, I said ‘okay’ and Jho Low says ‘that’s not your level, it has to be Cheah Tek Kuang (the then AmBank managing director) and above to meet up with Datuk Seri’. So, when it started, I didn’t have any feeling of what to expect. We just proceeded and Cheah was going to meet Datuk Seri. 

“But as time went by, when the account was overdrawn and there was pressure to not honour the cheques and then we were told we cannot allow a bounced cheque situation because he is the prime minister, I was under pressure. So, it was stressful and challenging,” she said.

Yu said this during re-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib at Najib’s trial involving the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

Ahmad Akram: “If you let cheques bounce, what did you have in mind would happen?

Yu: “I do not know. We were concerned with the negative media reports if the PM’s cheques were to bounce. It could be anything. These were cheques issued by the PM of Malaysia. Anything can happen. It was a reputation risk to the PM. I was very stressed at the time.”

Ahmad Akram: “You said the media may pick up and the PM’s name would be smeared if the cheques were allowed to bounce. Why do you think so?

Yu: “This is Malaysia. I cannot say for sure, but I remember it was political, and this is the PM’s account. We did not allow cheques to bounce as we did not want repercussions for the bank and Malaysia.”

Meanwhile, the 41st prosecution witness also told the court that Najib did not question the source of the money he was using.

Asked by Ahmad Akram if it was possible for Najib to have used the funds in his personal accounts to make payments to issue cheques and to pay for credit card bills without knowing there is money in the bank, Yu said: “he would believe there is money inside the bank for him to make those payments”.

To another question, she said there were multiple cheques issued from Najib’s accounts but the former prime minister never complained that these cheques were not actually issued by him.

Najib, 69, is facing four charges of using his position to receive 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