Kuala Lumpur—According to the testimony of one AmBank manager, whenever former Prime Minister Najib Razak had a problem charging his credit cards during big-time shopping sprees or had other financial problems with his accounts, it was fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low, who solved these problems.
Malaysia’s New Straits Times reports that Joanna Yu Ging Ping, the 54th witness in the 1MDB trial, recounted at length how Mr Low reached out to her whenever Mr Najib had a money problem that needed fixing.
Case in point: On December 23, 2014, when Mr Najib’s credit card did not go through at a luxury-brand Chanel store in Hawaii when he was charging over US$100,000 (S$136,500) on it, he texted Mr Low right away.
In turn, Mr Low texted Ms Yu, who was his relationship manager at AmBank at that time.
He wrote, “My platinum cards are not going through Jho. Can u call AmBank Visa and Mastercard right away? Thanks – from MNR pls help asap?”
Ms Yu confirmed to the court that MNR referred to Mohd Najib Razak.
The following is a transcript of that particular exchange:
Yu: Aiyo..our stupid card system down. Will check
Low: Chk asap pls. He is chasing
Yu: Yep called them already. Asking card guys to look into it immediately
Low: Urgent. He is in Hawaii and wants to charge US$100k
Yu: System ok wor. They asked to try again. They are on standby to clear transaction
Low: It will work? They checked his card works?
Yu: They checked and it seems ok
Yu: From what they can see
Low: US$100k one transaction no problem?
Yu: No problem. His limit is RM3 million
The total amount charged at the Chanel store that day to the former Prime Minster’s card was US$130,625 (S$178,445).
The same thing happened when Mr Najib shopped at De Grisogono, a Swiss jeweler, to buy jewelry worth millions of ringgit. This time, she was the one who texted Mr Low, writing “Need to urgently verify 24 transactions in Italy amounting to RM3.3 million in his cards.”
In his answer, the Malaysian financier wrote, “From PM – Great holiday here. All went well. Need to speak to Cheah to clear AmBank Visa for 1.2 million euro for u know what purchase. Can u do it immediately.”
Ms Yu was able to clear this transaction right away as well. The “Cheah” referred to in the conversation is former AmBank managing director Cheah Tek Kuan.
She added that during this shopping spree, an additional 16 jewellery purchases were declined since the card had gone past its limit.
Ms Yu told the court as a witness in the trial of the former Prime Minister concerning the abuse of SRC International funds.
From 2010, Ms Yu handled the 1MDB accounts at AmBank. She added that Mr Najib’s personal accounts at the bank were constantly overdrawn, as cheques were issued despite insufficient balances.
She said, “I often had to chase Nik Faisal to bank in money to prevent the cheques from bouncing.”
Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the former SRC International Sdn Bhd managing director, was the mandate holder for Najib’s accounts.
And when Mr Faisal could not be contacted, Ms Yu reached out to Mr Low, whom she said always found ways to provide the money to make up for what was lacking in Mr Najib’s accounts. The amount of RM12.3 million (S$ 4.08 million) was deposited in cash between June 2014 and March 2015 to prevent cheques that Mr Najib had issued from bouncing.
But this was problematic for AmBank, as they had to remain accountable to Bank Negara.
When asked to describe the role Mr Low’s played in the AmBank accounts, Ms Yu said, “He may not have the mandate to give written instructions to the bank, but he is able to facilitate to get funds. There were instances I told him I could not get hold of Nik Faisal and the accounts were overdrawn. Then someone banks in the money or he gets hold of Nik Faisal.”
Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram then asked her, “You mean he can solve your problems?”
She replied, “Yes.”
The former Prime Minster faces multiple charges of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering involving RM42 million (S$ 13.9 million) from funds from SRC International, and could go to jail for as long as 20 years, aside from being made to pay a fine./ TISG