Najib allegedly received funds as ‘gifts’

(The Star) – The High Court here was told that Datuk Seri Najib Razak received ‘gifts’ through fund transfers from overseas into his bank current accounts.

Joanna Yu, 48, who was a former relationship manager at AmBank Bhd, said the former prime minister’s three current accounts had a high volume of transactions between 2011 and 2015.

These transactions included the inward fund transfers from overseas in foreign currencies.

Yu, who is currently unemployed, said she had asked former SRC International Sdn Bhd CEO Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil the purpose of the inward funds received.

“I was informed that the said inward funds were ‘gifts’,” she said here yesterday.

Yu was reading her witness statement on the 41st day of the corruption trial of Najib who is accused of misappropriating RM42mil in SRC International funds.

As a relationship manager, Yu said she dealt closely with corporate clients and individuals with high standing with the bank, usually due to their status or their accumulated wealth.

“Najib fell in this category of clients and therefore we were the contact point for his bank-related matters.

“However, as Najib had given his mandate to Nik Faisal to act on his behalf, I usually met and dealt with Nik Faisal and not directly with Najib,” she said during examination-in-chief by Deputy Public Pro­se­cutor Budiman Lutfi Mohamed.

The witness said she did not have direct access to Najib’s accounts in the bank, but as his relationship manager, she would facilitate and forward any request received from Najib or Nik Faisal.

All fund transfers between Najib’s current accounts were written upon instructions received from Nik Faisal as permitted within Nik Faisal’s given mandate.

“As mentioned, I assisted by forwarding the written instructions received from Nik Faisal to the branch for their action,” she said.

Yu added that owing to Najib’s position as the then prime minister and finance minister, when there were instances where the current accounts were overdrawn, the bank would not automatically dishonour the cheques issued by Najib.

“The branch would alert me of the overdrawn situation and I would immediately contact Nik Faisal via telephone calls, messages or emails to update him to remedy the situation to ensure that the cheques were honoured,” she said, adding that there were instances when Nik Faisal was uncontactable.

She also said whenever instructions were received from Nik Faisal as the mandate holder for Najib’s accounts, it was taken that the said instructions were from Najib himself.

To additional questions by ad hoc prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram, Yu said that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, had on occasions relayed messages to her, purportedly from Najib.

She said Jho Low also sometimes acted as a contact person between her and Nik Faisal.

Yu said there was an instance where Low messaged her on Dec 23, 2014, to ask her to sort out issues regarding Najib’s credit cards.

Reading from a transcript of her messages with Low, Yu said Low claimed Najib wanted to charge US$100,000 (about RM411,000) on his credit cards, but the charge did not go through.

Low, she said, told her that the matter was urgent.

“He was in Hawaii and wanted to charge US$100,000 (on the cards),” she said.

She added that after checking with the bank’s credit card department, she assured Low that the charge would go through.

Sithambaram then showed Yu a US$130,625 (about RM537,000) transaction from a Chanel store in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec 22, 2014. (Due to time differences, Hawaii is a day day behind Malaysia).

Yu confirmed that the transaction was charged to Najib’s Visa platinum card (with the number ending in 5496).

Yu said she contacted Low on several instances when Najib’s accounts were overdrawn if Nik Faisal was unreachable.

“There were times that I couldn’t get hold of Nik Faisal; then I would tell Jho (Low) and he would have Nik Faisal call me back,” she said.

The witness also testified how Najib’s credit cards were declined while he was on holiday in Europe in August 2014, for an amount of US$570,000 (about RM2.3mil) in multiple transactions.

Yu said Najib’s accounts had been overdrawn several times “in the millions”.

She informed Nik Faisal that the bank had wanted to close the accounts.

“(I told him that one was) not supposed to issue cheques if there were insufficient funds.

“We were quite stressed with the overdrawn situation; we wanted the account closed and mentioned it to the mandate holder (Nik Faisal).

“I said: ‘You cannot keep doing this, you need to monitor the account as there cannot be too many over-the-counter (money transactions),” she added.

Najib, 66, faces three counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abusing his position and three counts of money laundering involving SRC International funds amoun­ting to RM42mil.

The hearing before Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues today.