Najib’s defence is now clear over SRC. It is that he had no idea what was happening with the new bank accounts that he opened on the advice of his team or how much money was going in them.
Except he seemed to assume these accounts gave him access to unlimited amounts as he kept on drawing millions out of them, leaving his advisor Jho Low to frantically conspire with account manager Joanna Yu to top up cash to meet the PM’s spending.
Najib flatly denies that Jho Low had any authorised involvement in these accounts or had been given permission to discuss matters with the bank. Although, he does on the other hand acknowledge that the money entering the accounts was organised by Jho Low, whom Najib says had informed him the King of Saudi Arabia was ‘continuing’ with more ‘donations’.
Najib cites no other source of money he was aware of for the millions entering these new accounts which actually came from SRC, apart from vague possible ‘CSR donations’ from well-wishers.
The story outlined in his prepared question and anwer statement read out to the court is that he had closed down the original monster 694 account at AmBank shortly after the election in 2013 (and after rumours had started to spread about its existence, with for example the complaints made to Bank Negara by the founder of the bank Hussein Najadi). Najib admits in his statement it would have looked bad for him if it became public he had a billion dollar personal account at the local bank.
So, he claims he returned $620 million, the bulk of the remaining money, ‘back to the donor’ by sending it to the Tanore Finance Corporation account at Falcon Bank in Singapore held in the name of Jho Low’s proxy Eric Tan. Najib says he thought the account belonged to the King of Saudi Arabia.
However, he explains he kept some of the money (on the grounds the King was so generous to allow the billions to be spent entirely at his own discretion towards the promotion of moderate Islam) and put it into the new accounts. He did not seem to know how much.
Later, the story goes, Jho Low had told Najib that the Saudi King had started pressing further amounts of cash on him again – presumably impressed at how much had been handed back the last time. So, Najib started spending it. On the other hand, he is vehement that Jho Low had no right to speak to his bank about these matters, despite being the link man for the ‘Saudi donations’.
The only persons designated to speak to the bank about his accounts, says Najib, were his personal secretary Azlin Alias and whoever Azlin delegated to take care of them in turn. Najib claims he signed a blank authorisation form with regard to the designated person, who turned out to be Jho Low’s side-kick Nik Arif Faisal Kamil, who was also the CEO of SRC and the Investment Manager of 1MDBB. Najib, when he found out, says he saw nothing odd about that. Meanwhile Jho was sending him and the bank letters from the Saudi King to account for the payments (or rather his proxy a certain Prince Saud Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a royal so obscure as to possibly not exist).
Najib flits between expressed outrage over the interchanges Jho Low engaged with Joanna Yu at the bank to try and sort out money flows, claiming he had no authorisation to do so, and admissions that it was Jho Low who was organising the injection of the cash ‘from the Saudi King’ and supplying both him and the bank the necessary ‘confirmation letters from the donor’.
Given his ‘shock’ at the mounds of evidence that Joanna Yu and others were communicating regularly at the bank with Jho Low about the replenishing of his accounts, Najib last week declared he intends to sue AmBank for discussing the details of his ‘private affairs’ with an unauthorised person – neither his secretary nor the designated Nik Kamil, (who worked for Jho anyway).
And this is why AmBank should of course worry. Less because Jho Low was not designated to manage the accounts but because the ensuing enquiries will put a spotlight on the bank’s anti-money laundering procedures – or rather the apparent lack of them.
The most cursory checks would have instantly revealed that the sums listed as entering Najib’s three new accounts at the bank from the likes of Tanore Finance Corp, Blackrock Commodities PTY, Vista Equity International Parters Seychelles, Putra Perdana and the like did not originate from the King of Saudi Arabia or even a Prince Saud, but from companies controlled by Jho Low. Several payments arrived internally to Malaysia via two hops from SRC.
How could the team at AmBank, overseen by senior figures on secondment from ANZ Australia, have failed to see the discrepancy? How possibly can it be argued that the junior Joanna Yu cunningly conspired with Jho Low to push through these massive sums by-passing proper checks without more senior colleagues becoming aware of the largest transactions at the bank?
Najib has threatened the bank by initiating action against a junior for allegedly conspiring with his acknowledged go-between to gull him over the origin of the millions travelling into his accounts. He knows that AmBank are caught in having allowed Malaysia’s over-powerful PM and MOF to run a blatant money laundering operation through their bank, through accounts set up by Najib with the Chairman himself, according to Najib’s sworn testimony last week.
He plainly hopes in return the bank will collude in blaming the junior employee who dutifully picked up the phone to Jho Low to keep fixing Najib’s deficits. That won’t get AmBank off long overdue questions over its failings over AMLA.
Meanwhile, a single thank you message from Najib to his ever-generous benefactor would surely have ascertained the truth about what was really going on with all those millions flowing into his accounts?