KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 28): A banker on Wednesday (Sept 28) confirmed that no red flags linked to money laundering were raised over the transfer of US$620 million out of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's account.
R Uma Devi, who manages AmBank's Jalan Raja Chulan branch, concurred with Najib's defence counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed during the ongoing 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-Tanore trial over the misappropriation of over RM2 billion of the strategic development company's funds.
During the cross-examination, Wan Aizuddin asked the prosecution's 37th witness if any red flags were raised in relation to the US$620 million that left Najib's account.
To this, a hesitant Uma Devi answered: "The money had been transmitted so nothing was done to stop it."
The defence counsel pointed out that the amount was equivalent to RM2.03 billion, in line with the exchange rate at that time, which was RM3.26 to US$1.
The amount was pertinent as it was linked to the RM2.08 billion Najib is alleged to have received in March and April 2013, which forms the basis of the third charge of abuse of power he is facing in this trial.
Prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said in his opening statement for the trial that Tanore Finance Corp — an entity linked to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, more commonly known as Jho Low — had transferred RM2.08 billion to Najib's account.
The RM2.08 billion also forms the basis of nine out of 21 money laundering charges.
As for the RM2.03 billion, Sri Ram said that Najib 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.
'US$620 mil was unutilised donations'
Wan Aizuddin contended the prosecution's argument and said that the money remitted out of the Pekan Member of Parliament's account was to return what was left of donations to him.
In court on Wednesday, he cited a letter of instruction from Najib to AmBank's Group Treasury in July 2013 instructing the bank to convert the money in his account into US$620 million and remit it out of his account.
Reading the letter, the defence counsel said that the sum represented an unutilised sum of donations and personal gifts which Najib had received.
However, the letter did not mention who received the money.
Najib also asked for the money to be remitted in accordance with Foreign Exchange Administration rules, and to convert the ringgit into foreign currency in his account.
The claim that the money was donated to Najib is something the defence had repeated even in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case for which Najib has been found guilty on all seven charges — one count of abuse of power with regard to the Retirement Fund Inc's (KWAP) RM4 billion loans to SRC and three counts each of criminal breach of trust and abuse of power with regard to RM42 million of former 1MDB unit's funds.
Earlier on Wednesday, Uma Devi said that according to current regulations, some trigger points that the bank looks for in suspicious transfers are the amount of transfer, the purpose and disclosure of information from the customer.
The bank will screen the transactions based on these trigger points.
"[We also look at the] conduct of the account. [If] the account has always done [such transactions, there] won't be a trigger point. If suddenly there is a transaction, that would be a trigger point," she added.
She said that after a red flag is raised, the bank would conduct its investigation. She explained that in her experience at the Jalan Raja Chulan branch, the bank has stopped some transactions over concerns they had breached anti-money laundering rules.
Uma Devi, who joined the branch in 2015, said that she was not sure of the regulations in 2013 as she was attached to a smaller branch at that point in time.
Najib, 69, is charged with four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.28 billion of 1MDB funds in this trial.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues.
The Edge is covering the trial live here.
Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.
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1MDB-Tanore trial: RM2.08b transferred into Najib's personal accounts in 2013, says bank officer