Najib referred to as 'Optimus Prime' as Jho Low allegedly pulled the strings for his accounts

Photo by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf/The Edge

Photo by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf/The Edge

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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 7): Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was referred to as Transformers main character “Optimus Prime” or “OP” in BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) chats between fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low and former AmBank relationship manager Joanna Yu Ging Ping in 2014 — where they were discussing Najib’s AmBank accounts.

Yu was testifying in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd-Tanore (1MDB-Tanore) trial in the High Court here on Monday (Nov 7) in Najib’s corruption case, where the ex-PM is facing 25 charges over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion, which was alleged to have entered his personal bank accounts.

Yu was shown the BBM chats between her and Jho Low from Dec 8, 2014, where they were discussing the closure of one of Najib’s accounts with the bank. 

“Tell him (an unspecified AmBank personnel) OP said they will likely close the account by end-December due to his behaviour," read an exchange between Yu and Jho Low. 

Asked by lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram who was the “OP” in the BBM message, Yu said it was Najib. 

She said the name “Optimus Prime” was given by Jho Low because Najib was the prime minister. 

Touching on more BBM chats between Yu and Jho Low, Sri Ram asked Yu about messages in June 2014, where Jho Low enquired about concealing Najib's name for transactions coming into his accounts. 

“He reiterated many times to keep Najib’s accounts confidential, and I told him that foreign exchange transactions couldn’t be hidden from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM),” Yu said. 

The witness said that code names would raise suspicions, and that it was critical that the central bank's governor was made aware of the transactions, and who the funds belonged to.

'Najib wanted Saudi gifts to be kept under wraps'

Sri Ram then moved on to letters from former Madinah province governor Saud Abdulaziz Majid Al Saud indicating donations made to Najib.

He read out a series of messages highlighting Jho Low as indicating that the then PM did not want the said letters to be given to anyone, not even the central bank. 

The message read: “PM said gift letter is NOT to be given to anyone for record not even bank. Says only for Mr Cheah to show governor of Bank and take back, governor shouldn’t have a copy and should refer to PM if needed.”

“Mr Cheah” in the message referred to former AmBank managing director Cheah Tek Kuang, who previously testified that he had gone to see then BNM governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz to inform her that Najib’s accounts would receive the donations.

"He (Jho Low) said [the letters were] only for former AmBank managing director [Cheah] Tek Kuang to show to [the then] BNM governor?" asked Sri Ram. 

"The letters [confirming that the funds were gifts] were supposed to be treated as confidential," answered Yu. 

As previously reported, out of the total amount sent, some US$620 million — the amount which was not utilised — was then returned to Tanore Finance Corp.

'American pies' for 'big boss' Najib

Sri Ram then moved on to another BBM message in May 2014, where Jho Low informed Yu that "big boss" had just called him informing him that "15 American pies" were coming in. 

However, the money had to be transferred in pounds because of an issue with Wells Fargo Bank. The bank wanted more details when it came to transfers concerning US dollars, which Jho Low was not prepared to give. 

Yu also elaborated that the “American pies” nomenclature referred to US$1 million per “American pie”. Therefore, the "15 American pies" referred to US$15 million.

Najib was seated in the dock while Yu was testifying, clad in a beige suit. 

The public gallery in the court was half filled with few of Najib’s aides and entourage. 

His wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and his daughter Nooryana Najwa Najib, who have been attending the trial to see him of late, were not in attendance. The trial resumes at 2.30pm. 

The Edge is covering the trial live here.

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

Surin Murugiah