(Updated)

1MDB-Tanore trial: RM2.08b transferred into Najib's personal accounts in 2013, says bank officer

Former Malaysian prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak escorted by Kajang prison officers at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex for his 1MDB-Tanore trial on Monday, Sept 26, 2022.(Photo by Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

Former Malaysian prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak escorted by Kajang prison officers at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex for his 1MDB-Tanore trial on Monday, Sept 26, 2022.(Photo by Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 26): The High Court here was told on Monday (Sept 26) that RM2.08 billion was deposited into former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s AmBank private accounts in early 2013, according to the bank’s branch manager.

During the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-Tanore trial, Ambank (M) Bhd Jalan Raja Chulan branch manager R Uma Devi, who is the prosecution witness, testified before judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah that between March 22 and April 10, 2013, there were nine deposits into Najib’s “694” AmBank account, which amounted to RM2,081,476,926.00.

Uma Devi, who was detailing the monetary inflows and outflows of Najib’s account, also testified in court that RM2.03 billion (or RM2,034,350,000 to be exact) left the Pekan Member of Parliament (MP)’s accounts in five separate transactions between Aug 2 and Aug 23, 2013.

The RM2.08 billion forms the basis of Najib’s third charge in the trial, where he is charged with four counts of abuse of power for using his position as then prime minister, finance minister, and chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers to receive gratification.

The RM2.08 billion also forms the basis of nine out of 21 money laundering charges.

Where did the money come from?

In prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram’s opening statement in the trial, Sri Ram detailed how this RM2.08 billion came to be in Najib’s account.

It concerns a purported joint venture between 1MDB and Aabar in equal shares. The joint venture company was called ADMIC.

The purpose of this alleged joint venture (JV) was to develop the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) in Kuala Lumpur.

Sri Ram said that Najib issued a letter of support from the Ministry of Finance (as he was the finance minister at that time) to guarantee 1MDB’s investment. A loan of US$3 billion was raised for this alleged purpose from the Bank of New York Mellon Group. Goldman Sachs acted as the arranger of the loan.

Of the US$3 billion, a sum of US$2.721 billion was disbursed into the account of 1MBD Global Investment Ltd with BSI Bank at Lugano in Switzerland. The balance went to pay the fee of Goldman Sachs.

And of the US$2.721 billion, a sum of US$1,060,606,065 was paid into the accounts of two fiduciary funds, namely Devonshire Funds Ltd and Enterprise Emerging Markets Fund (EEMF). Devonshire Funds received US$646,464,649 in five tranches over two days, on March 20 and 21, 2013. EEMF received US$414,141,416 in three tranches, also within the same two days.

On March 21, 2013, Devonshire Funds transferred US$430 million to Granton Property Holding Ltd, which is a company controlled by Eric Tan Kim Loong, who is alleged to be an associate of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

On the same day, Granton transferred the whole of that sum to Tanore Finance — also a company controlled by Tan. Additionally, Devonshire Funds transferred US$210 million to Tanore Finance Corp. Then, between March 22 and 25, 2013, EEMF transferred US$250 million to Tanore.

Tanore then transferred RM2.08 billion from its accounts into Najib’s private account.

While Najib got the money, the JV never took off, according to Sri Ram.

As for the RM2.03 billion, Sri Ram said that Najib had transferred RM2.03 billion to Tanore Singapore between Aug 2 and 23, 2013. He said that the balance of the money, RM22,649,000, was used to pay four entities and one individual.

Najib previously maintained that the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family, without naming the company or account holder that the money was sent from. He also said that he returned the money to Saudi royal family, which is allegedly the RM2.03 billion going out to Tanore Singapore’s account.

Najib was responsible for all transactions in his account

During the examination-in-chief by Deputy Public Prosecutor Najwa Bistamam, Uma Devi said that Najib had sole control of his AmBank “694” and “880” accounts.

Najwa: From 2011 to 2015 for both these accounts (ending 694 and 880), are there any other bank officers besides Ambank officers who can access the account?

Uma Devi: Besides the relationship manager and branch staff, no one else will have access.

Najwa: In general, who is responsible for any transactions (in the accounts)?

Uma Devi: [For] all the accounts, the person who is fully responsible is the account holder. In this case, Najib is fully responsible.

The trial before Justice Sequerah continues on Tuesday (Sept 27).

The charges brought against Najib:

Four counts of abuse of power for using his position as then prime minister, finance minister and chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers to receive gratification worth:

  • RM60.63 million on Feb 24 and June 14, 2011;
  • RM90.9 million on Oct 31 to Nov 12, 2012;
  • RM2.08 billion on March 22 and April 10, 2013;
  • RM49.93 million on June 23 and Dec 19, 2014.

Twenty-one counts of money laundering involving over RM4.3 billion:

  • First to ninth counts (March 22 to April 10, 2013): RM2.08 billion from Tanore Finance Corp to his bank account;
  • 10th count (Aug 2, 2013): RM652.6 million from his bank account to Tanore Finance Corp;
  • 11th and 12th counts (Aug 2 and Aug 7, 2013): RM20 million to Umno via cheque; RM100,000 to Umno Batu Kawan via cheque;
  • 13th count (Aug 7, 2013): RM246,000 to Tan Sri Lim Soon Peng via cheque;
  • 14th count (Aug 12, 2013): RM2 million to ORB Solutions Sdn Bhd via cheque;
  • 15th count (Aug 14, 2013): RM303,000 to Semarak Konsortium Satu Sdn Bhd via cheque;
  • 16th to 19th counts (Aug 15 to 23, 2013): RM1.38 million from his bank account to Tanore Finance Corp;
  • 20th and 21st counts (Aug 27 and 30, 2013): RM162.44 million from one of his AmIslamic Bank accounts to another [unknown entity].

The Edge is covering the trial live here.

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.

Kang Siew Li