KUALA LUMPUR (June 13): AmBank Bhd's treasury department received instructions to convert some of the money in Datuk Seri Najib Razak's private bank account into US dollar and British pound.
In the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-Tanore trial, Salmah Daman Huri, AmBank's treasury department vice president, testified that a sum of US$620 million in the former prime minister's account was converted from the local currency via several transactions in July and August 2013.
In addition, the bank also helped convert a sum in Najib's other account in AmBank into £8.7 million.
Salmah testified to making foreign exchange transactions of ringgit into US dollar for Najib's private accounts.
The said transactions in the US dollar were made according to the exchange rates at that time, to the account known as Amprivate Banking — Mr C/O Amprivate Banking, which belonged to Najib.
She testified that a foreign exchange transaction of US$200 million in the account, which amounted to RM652.6 million, was undertaken on July 31, 2013. Two more exchange transactions were made of US$100 million each, which amounted to RM654 million.
On Aug 20, 2013, Salmah confirmed a foreign exchange transaction of more than RM181 million, which was converted into US$55 million and on the next day, some RM545 million was converted into US$165 million.
The money was part of the sum of US$681 million deposited into Najib's account from 1MDB proceeds. In lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram's opening statement, he said that Najib had transferred a sum of more than RM2 billion to Tanore Singapore, and the transactions purportedly involved the money that Najib transferred back to Tanore.
During the cross-examination, Salmah was asked by Najib’s lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed if any of these transactions were flagged by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) or AmBank.
She replied that BNM had never raised any red flags and that AmBank also did not raise any red flags on the transactions.
Wan Aizuddin: If there were any red flags, would you be informed?
Wan Aizuddin: [Similarly] for foreign transactions, [if there were] any red flags, would you also inform [BNM]?
While it was stated in her witness statements that the MR C/O AmPrivate Banking account was Najib’s account, she did not know at that time that it belonged to him and only found out after investigations into 1MDB had begun.
She further clarified that in her department, she would not know the identities of the account holders, adding that the identities of the customers would be secret. She also noted that these clients were dealt directly with by the bank’s relationship managers.
Wan Aizuddin: Did you ask the relationship manager the identity of the account holder?
Salmah: No, I didn't.
Wan Aizuddin: As you only dealt with the relationship manager, you can't confirm if the instructions for these transactions came from the customer?
More than £8 million was transferred into Najib’s account ending ‘880’
Before her cross-examination, Salmah also verified transactions that came from Blackrock Commodities (Global) Ltd from DBS Bank Ltd, Singapore and Vista Equity International Partners through Amicorp Bank And Trust Ltd, Barbados into Najib’s account ending “880” which was known as AmPrivate Banking- 1MY.
The transactions amounted to more than £8 million, which Salmah, through her department, had converted the amount into ringgit, amounting to more than RM45 million based on the exchange rate when the transactions took place in 2014.
Both Vista Equity and Blackrock Commodities are companies owned and controlled by Eric Tan, a trusted associate of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, who is better known as Jho Low.
There was also another transaction of £750,000 or RM4.093 million from Blackrock Commodities to Najib’s account under the name AmPrivate Banking-1MY.
The transactions took place between June and December 2014, according to Salmah.
Salmah was released as a witness from the stand after questioning.
In the opening statement in the trial, Sri Ram said that between Oct 23 and Dec 19, 2014 Vista Equity through five tranches in sterling currency transferred a sum equivalent to RM45.83 million into Najib’s account.
He said that the more than RM45 million and the earlier RM4.09 million into Najib’s other account form the subject of the fourth charge of abuse of power in the trial.
In the 1MDB-Tanore trial, Najib has been charged with four counts of abuse of power in enriching himself with RM2.3 billion of 1MDB funds and 21 counts of money laundering of the same amount. He could face a fine and up to 20 years' imprisonment if convicted.
The above article has been amended for accuracy.
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