KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 14): Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said Datuk Seri Najib Razak did not ask the central bank about the source of funds that had entered into his accounts, which turned out to be RM3.2 billion instead of RM2.6 billion following the AmBank raid by a joint task force set up to probe 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
During examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Kamal Baharin Omar, Zeti denied that the central bank had known as early as 2013 that large amounts of money had made its way into the former prime minister's accounts.
She was shown Najib’s July 2018 interview with news portal Malaysiakini, where the former PM claimed Zeti already knew of the RM2.6 billion that was deposited into his AmIslamic Bank account.
Through a media statement, Zeti made a denial about any knowledge of the funds.
Kamal: On the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s account, did BNM or TS (Zeti) have personal knowledge of the amount in the account?
Zeti: No, we (BNM) do not have knowledge about the large amount of funds in the account.
She was then asked about a letter written by Najib dated June 30, 2013, stating he wanted to repatriate RM2.26 billion back, and if she was aware of the money in his account.
“However, the amount here referred (in Najib’s) letter was RM2.26 billion and not RM2.6 billion,” she replied.
Kamal: Was there any other letter on the RM2.6 billion in Najib’s account?
Zeti: There is no other letter. However, let me explain that following the raid conducted (by BNM and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) it was discovered that an amount of RM3.2 billion was remitted into Najib’s account.
Kamal: Based on the investigation on BNM under money laundering, did Najib [at] any time inquire to BNM about the source of [the] transaction into that account?
Zeti: No, he did not.
Earlier, Zeti testified that BNM only discovered in July 2015 that the monies had entered into Najib’s accounts.
This follows a probe following a confidential tip-off through an exchange of information among foreign authorities that the funds remitted to the 1MDB-PetroSaudi International Ltd joint venture had been remitted to other accounts, including those that had been approved by the central bank.
She said at that particular time, the information was centred on 1MDB as it was the one that remitted the fund into the Good Star account controlled by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.
She explained that the money entering into Najib’s accounts seemed to have been disguised or hidden by the commercial bank, as it only showed in some transaction tranches that money was entering into one of AmBank’s accounts and not directly to Najib's personal accounts.
AmBank, Zeti said, did not report the suspicious transaction to BNM as some of the amount was reported as entering into the bank’s accounts, instead of Najib’s.
She said as a result of this, the central bank had imposed the highest penalty on the commercial bank following the raid.
It was reported that following investigations into AmBank for its non-disclosure, false reporting and failure to comply with prudential regulations, a RM59 million penalty was imposed on the bank. In addition, the bank was reported to have paid the government RM2.83 billion (US$699 million) as settlement in relation to 1MDB.
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.