KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — Former group managing director of AmBank Cheah Tek Kuang told the High Court here today that he was told by Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2011 to expect US$100 million (RM463.7 million) “donation” from Saudi Arabia, adding that he did not dare ask the then prime minister more about the latter’s claim.
Cheah said this as the 39th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds under cross-examination from lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
Cheah had yesterday related in court how he had gone to Najib’s house to open a new personal account with AmIslamic Bank during which the latter directly told him that US$100 million would be deposited into the new account.
According to Cheah, Najib said the money was from Saudi Arabia and purported it was a donation for his “Islamic activity”.
Today, Cheah reiterated that Najib volunteered the information about the US$100 million “donation” from the Saudi Arabian government.
Under questioning from Shafee, he agreed that this was important for bankers to know as it concerned the “source of funds” and that the bank would be required to disclose such information to Malaysia’s central bank.
Shafee: So the client, being prime minister, without being asked, told you this is the source of funds?
Cheah: It’s true, it’s true.
Shafee: Did you ask him any question when he told you that?
Cheah: No, no, I dare not ask him any more questions.
Shafee: Did you ask why was the donation, why was the contribution from Saudi Arabia?
Shafee: Because you need to answer to Bank Negara.
Cheah: I just told, donation from Saudi lah, that’s all.
In his testimony yesterday, Cheah related that he had met privately with Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz to tell her about Najib’s new bank account and the latter’s expectation of US$100 million from Saudi Arabia.
He told the court this was because Najib is a politically exposed person and national interests were involved.
Cheah agreed with Shafee today that it was a private bank account and that it was just a matter of courtesy for him to inform the BNM governor about it.
“Just to inform her the prime minister opened an account and that he’s a politically exposed person, and also because he is prime minister and finance minister at that time, so proper to inform Bank Negara and Zeti.
“I told her PM to receive US$100 million from Saudi royalty and that’s what I told her,” he testified.
“The governor said ya, we can open the account, but we have to follow all the rules lah. Datuk Seri Najib must follow all the rules,” Cheah added.
Najib, dressed in a grey suit today with a silver-and-blue striped tie, was seen laughing several times during Cheah’s testimony today.
Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who was in the courtroom also giggled at parts of Cheah’s testimony.
Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.