1MDB charity foundation ex-CEO denies mentioning Jho Low in conversations with AmBank manager

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 17): The witness in the Najib-SRC trial who facilitated the transfers of funds allegedly originating from SRC International Sdn Bhd into the accounts of Datuk Seri Najib Razak has denied being involved with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho.

Ung Su Ling, the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M), had communicated with AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu — who managed multiple accounts belonging to Najib, SRC unit Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd (IPSB) and YR1M — between 2013 and 2015.

At the High Court today, defence counsel Harvinderjit Singh highlighted the term "our friend" which was used by both Ung and Yu multiple times in their BlackBerry Messenger conversations, including during the days leading to the transfers of RM42 million into Najib's accounts on Dec 24, 2014 and Feb 9, 2015.

Ung consistently denied the assertion by Harvinderjit that they were referring to Jho Low, the missing businessman said to be a central figure in the siphoning of billions of ringgit from SRC's former parent company 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

"'Our friend' is to address a person who you don't want to name," said Ung. "[It is] not necessarily [Jho Low]… No. I don't know to her who our friend could be. To me 'our friend' could be different," she said.

Ung is the 49th prosecution witness in the trial, where Najib is facing seven criminal charges for receiving RM42 million allegedly taken from SRC through corrupt means.

At one point during the cross-examination, a disagreement broke out between Harvinderjit and prosecution lawyer Datuk V Sithambaram after Harvinderjit asserted Ung's connection with Jho Low through his open-ended questions while seemingly denying Ung's replies.

Sithambaram was seemingly annoyed when Harvinderjit told Ung not to look around the court room but instead look at High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali to give "a clear answer" to his line of questions.

"Don't try to coach the witness," said Sithambaram as he intervened. "If you want to ask a question, make it a yes or no question. If it's an open-ended one, let her answer," he added. "Don't push it."

At times, Ung said the term referred to the late Datuk Azlin Alias, who was Najib's principal private secretary and one of four trustees in YR1M which partnered with IPSB to undertake corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes — where YR1M channels the funds and IPSB is the execution arm.

In the early years of YR1M, Ung has received instructions from Azlin to inform IPSB to transfer RM42 million into AmBank accounts for "CSR purposes", which Ung said she only found out later were accounts belonging to Najib.

During the hearing, it was also revealed that YR1M had transferred some funds including RM2 million cash meant for Hari Raya Haji donations to Kee Kok Thiam — another individual Ung called "our friend" — who is an associate of Jho Low.

Ung had previously worked in Jho Low-linked Wynton Group, a position she took alongside three others after Jho Low acquired her prior workplace Merican & Partners Asset Management firm.

Most times, Ung said her actions in YR1M — and conversations with Yu arising from requested fund transfers — were done at the behest of the trustees in YR1M, which is chaired by Najib.

"You want to do the best when your boss asks you to do [something]," said Ung, when asked by Harvinderjit why there was a sense of urgency in her conversations with Joanna Yu to confirm several fund transfers.

Separately, Ung conceded to Harvinderjit that when she was a signatory for YR1M's bank accounts, she practised pre-signing its cheques.

"You offered that solution to allow money to be transferred out of IPSB without issue," the defence lawyer said.

"Not any issue… It is to prevent delays due to travelling," responded Ung.

The cross-examination also revealed that Ung was also involved in the process of closing the AmBank accounts ending 898 and 906 belonging to Najib.

She received the closure documents "in sealed envelopes" to be passed to another individual called Kee.

Ung had informed Yu about the closure of the accounts via BlackBerry Messenger saying: "I have good news for you [Yu]."

Both Kee and Yu, as per Ung's recollection, were eager to close the accounts because "the conduct of the accounts [was] poor", which Ung opined was likely a reference to how cheques from the account had bounced.

Apart from the aforementioned RM2 million, Ung agreed that Kee had also previously asked for RM300,000 to be transferred from Ihsan Perdana to Najib's 906 account.

Meanwhile, Harvinderjit also pointed out — much to Ung's agreement — that Dennis See, Ung's cousin who worked in 1MDB, was also involved in getting cheques from IPSB, although both Ung and Harvinderjit were at a disagreement as to where the instruction to do so came from.

Harvinderjit: The instruction also came from Jho Low.

Ung: He got it from Azlin.

Harvinderjit: That's what he told you. I suggest you knew that all these instructions came from Jho Low… You don't want to disclose the truth on relationship with Jho Low, because you don't want to get embroiled.

Ung: I disagree.

Harviderjit: You never received instruction to transfer the funds from Azlin. So what you said today is a complete and utter lie.

Ung replied that she acted on behalf of Azlin, and not Jho Low. "You (Harvinderjit) might not want to believe it, but that is what happened," she said.