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KUALA LUMPUR (July 27): Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz told the High Court on Thursday (July 27) that she was never informed by then AmBank group managing director Cheah Tek Kuang that Datuk Seri Najib Razak would be receiving “donations” into his private bank accounts in AmBank.

The testimony was in contrast to Cheah’s claim that he had informed Zeti that Najib opened his accounts in AmBank because the then prime minister was expecting a US$100 million donation from Saudi Arabia. 

Zeti claimed that AmBank had failed to lodge any of the suspicious transactions through Najib’s accounts to BNM.

“AmBank, as with all other deposit-taking financial institutions, is duty-bound to undertake due diligence and surveillance of individual accounts, and to report to BNM should there be any suspicious transactions. 

“AmBank, however, did not lodge any suspicious transaction reports to BNM, on any of the accounts or transactions in the accounts of Najib,” said the former governor when testifying as the 46th prosecution witness in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd-Tanore (1MDB-Tanore) trial. 

During her testimony, she also alluded to a meeting on Jan 28, 2011 with Cheah, when he came to her office to inform her that Najib would be opening accounts as a courtesy. 

Cheah informed her that Najib was opening an account with AmIslamic Bank Bhd, and that the account would be referred to in a code for the ROMS (Ringgit Operations Monitoring System).

Zeti said that during the brief meeting, she told Cheah to direct all future communications relating to such matters to the then deputy governor, who oversaw financial surveillance and supervision of the financial system. 

Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, who stepped down as the BNM governor last month, was then the deputy governor. 

"Nothing further was discussed, and the meeting was short. At no time during this meeting did Cheah ever mention any intended donations that were to be remitted into this account," she told the court. 

Zeti added that Cheah issued a follow-up letter, dated Feb 9, 2011, on the meeting to state the fact that the said account opened by Najib was coded for the ROMS. 

The former governor reiterated that the opening of the account was in compliance with the rules. 

"Although the account was coded as 'AmPrivate Banking — MR' for the ROMS, the opening of the account was in compliance with the set rules, that is, all personal accounts opened by the account holder must be under the name of the account holder as stated in the national identity card, and not by any other name," she said. 

On March 22, 2011, according to Zeti, Cheah sent another letter to Nor Shamsiah. 

"This letter attached a letter of intent, of a promise for a donation from one Saud Abdulaziz Majid Al Saud that was dated Feb 1 2011, and which was addressed to Najib," she said.

After that, she testified that there was no information on the said funds, and that AmBank did not raise any irregularities with the money. 

“There was no information on the funds that were remitted into [Najib's] account, or that the said funds were irregular or suspicious," she said. 

Zeti also informed that BNM had been made aware of the existence of three other current accounts that were opened under Najib’s name in July 2013. However, the three accounts were only disclosed to the central bank almost a year and half later by then AmBank group managing director Ashok Ramamurthy on Dec 12, 2014. 

Cheah claimed that he told Zeti Najib’s account was receiving US$100m donation

Cheah previously testified that he had informed Zeti that Najib opened the account in AmBank because he was expecting a US$100 million donation from Saudi Arabia. 

He said he met Zeti to inform her of the donation shortly after facilitating the opening of the account. Cheah was explaining how he facilitated the opening of the current account 211-202-200969-4 on Jan 13, 2011 (known as the “9694” account).

“The purpose of the meeting was to inform her (Zeti) that Najib had opened an account, and there were incoming funds of US$100 million from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

He said it was important to inform the governor of the matter, as Najib was a politically exposed person who was linked to the nation’s interest. Zeti did not object, he added.

“[However,] she reminded that the opening of the said account [was] to be made following the banking rules and regulations,” said Cheah.

Najib is on trial on four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds.

The trial before judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues. 

The Edge is covering the trial live here.

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.

Edited ByKathy Fong
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