KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 23): Bank Negara Malaysia, in a late night statement Wednesday, said it had furnished information to the relevant law enforcement agency in 2016 in response to reports about information it received from foreign financial intelligence units back then on the accounts belonging to the husband of a former governor.
BNM said the move was in accordance with its responsibilities under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
It is understood to be referring to reports about suspicious transactions involving the accounts of the husband of Tan Sri Dr Zeti Aziz, who was the bank's governor from May 2000 to April 2016, with the funds involved in the transactions reportedly linked to Jho Low and 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Zeti and her husband Datuk Tawfiq Ayman's alleged ties to 1MDB have been in the spotlight since the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission revealed last November that US$15.4 million of 1MDB-linked funds that it had recovered from Singapore were held by a company that was partly owned by Tawfiq. In January this year, Zeti and her husband were reported to be under investigation by the MACC over ties with 1MDB.
Prior to that, The Edge Malaysia revealed in March last year, citing documents and correspondences it sighted, that the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force had in 2015 and 2016 shared information with BNM about suspicious transactions involving millions of dollars that went into a bank account in Singapore held by a company owned by Zeti's husband.
In reply to The Edge's query at the time, BNM said it was unable to respond on the matter, as it was “bound by the international protocol for sharing of financial intelligence”.
In its Wednesday statement, BNM also said all investments abroad by resident entities are subject to the requirements under the Exchange Control Act 1953 that was in force prior to 2013 (since replaced by the Financial Services Act 2013).
It was referring to the witness testimony in the ongoing bribery trial of ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng in New York, US, relating to the approval given by BNM for 1MDB to invest abroad in 2009. Ng is charged with conspiring with ex-Goldman Sachs Southeast Asia chairman Tim Leissner and Jho Low to launder money embezzled from 1MDB and violate US anti-bribery laws. He is the only former Goldman banker to go on trial in the scandal.
The requirements and criteria governing such investments abroad are transparent and published on BNM’s website, BNM further said. "All submissions made by 1MDB, including the said application, were subject to the same approval criteria and internal governance process that apply to any submission by other entities to BNM," it added.
The Star reported earlier the same day, citing court transcripts, that Leissner had testified that there was bribery involved in BNM's "unprecedented" approval in 2009 for the transfer of US$1bil (RM4.18bil) in funds to PetroSaudi International, and that Ng had told him about the bribery.