Ex-AmBank MD: Najib’s private account opened for US$100m donation was ‘sensitive’, given special code name to prevent info leak

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal AmIslamic bank account which he opened in 2011 with the expectation of receiving a purported US$100 million donation from Saudi Arabia was a “sensitive” bank account which had to be given a special code name, the High Court heard today.

AmBank’s former managing director Cheah Tek Kuang, 75, said this while testifying in court as the 39th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

After Najib opened his personal bank account with the account number 211-202-200969-4 or ending 9694, Cheah said AmBank’s operations team headed by Ross Foden had proposed for a code name to be given to the account, as the account was “sensitive and to avoid an information leak like Public Bank for the NFC case”.

“I agreed with the code name which was ‘AmPrivate Banking-MR’ for Datuk Seri Najib’s account to avoid personal information from being misused,” Cheah told the High Court.

Cheah said he did not know if Najib had been informed of this code name, but said it falls under AmBank’s operations team to choose the code name as it involves internal matters and bank operations.

Why a bank’s MD met with Najib to open the VVIP account

Cheah said he was informed in January 2011 by Joanna Yu who was then AmBank relationship manager in charge of handling 1MDB’s account that the then prime minister Najib wished to open a current account with the bank.

Regarding the opening of this “VVIP” account, Cheah said Yu did not state who had given the order to open the account for Najib, but suggested that Yu may have received the request to open the account as she was handling 1MDB’s accounts. Cheah explained that those who handle accounts belonging to the “Big Corporate” category would also usually handle the banking affairs for those companies’ owners or directors, and highlighted that Najib was chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board.

Cheah said Yu felt she was not of suitable rank to meet directly with Najib and sought for his help to obtain Najib’s signature for the opening of the account and application for credit card and to hand over the cheque book.

Cheah said he was willing to help but also felt he was unsuited in rank to meet Najib directly as he had a superior namely AmBank chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim.

After having met with Azman privately at the latter’s office at Menara AmBank, Cheah said he was instructed to meet Najib: “Tan Sri Azman rejected to meet with Datuk Seri Najib and ordered me to meet with Datuk Seri Najib. I have no choice, and this is an instruction, therefore I agreed to meet with the prime minister.”

After having made arrangements with Najib’s then principal private secretary Datuk Azlin Alias to meet with Najib for the bank account opening, Cheah said he was picked up from his house by a driver sent by Azlin and was brought to Najib’s house in Bukit Tunku.

The US$100m expected ‘donation’

After introducing himself to Najib and meeting him in the living room, the two of them were alone when the banking documents were provided to Najib for him to sign in order to open the bank account with the account number 211-202-200969-4.

“Next, he told me that there will be money coming in from Saudi Arabia. A big sum of money in USD totalling US$100,000,000. I did not ask the purpose of the money to be received by him, but he himself said that money is a donation from the Saudi Arabia government for ‘Islamic activity’ for him himself,” Cheah said, adding that he had left about five minutes later as Najib was very busy, and they did not discuss anything else except the account and expected transaction.

Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah is expected to resume tomorrow morning.

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