Notable dates have emerged over the past few days of the Najib trial, during which the five accounts used to process money taken from 1MDB and its subsidiary SRC have been discussed.
It has been confirmed the original two major slush fund accounts in AmBank, which were used for the 2013 election and other expenses by Najib, were opened in January 2011 and then closed on August 30th 2013 after the May GE13 election.
These were current account 20112022009694 and a related savings account 201200220090481, which swelled to over a billion US dollars before GE13, thanks to several transfers that have been traced to 1MDB and SRC.
Najib has said that he had understood these funds to have been instead donated by an Arab royal, whom he has latterly implied was the former Saudi King Abdullah, now deceased. His defence is that he was tricked by fugitive financier Jho Low into receiving all this money.
An AmBank official detailed to the court how just prior to these August 30th closures Najib’s aids had set up three more current accounts at the bank (under his name) from which the prime minister was to draw several futher millions for various personal and political expenses.
These three later accounts were opened on July 31, 2013 said bank manager Uma Devi, which was a month before the two original accounts were closed. Most of the money in the closed accounts (some USD640 million) was sent back to a Jho Low entity at Falcon Bank in Singapore, namely Tanore Finance Corporation (it was Tanore Finance Corporation that had sent a whopping single payment of USD681 million stolen from 1MDB into the Najib accounts just prior to the election). RM12.5 million was transferred on to the new accounts.
Pascal Najadi, son of AmBank founder Hussain Najadi, has pointed out that these moves to replace the accounts and reduce the sums held by Najib at AmBank were initiated just two days after the high profile assassination of his father in central KL on July 29th 2013. Najadi had purportedly made a number of official complaints in the run up to his death detailing his concerns that there had been high level corruption and abuse of certain accounts at the bank.
Whether or not that shocking event and Najadi’s alleged reports had provoked the minders of this stolen 1MDB money to close the most toxic accounts and open alternative ones has not been established. However, it is worth contextualising some of the other dates that also emerged during the course of this examination of Ms Devi.
In particular, she confirmed that these later three accounts, which were to be further funded by money transfered out of the 1MDB subsidiary SRC between 2014 and 2015, were themselves closed on March 9, 2015.
Sarawak Report notes that this date was just one week after this website published the very first explosive reports documenting the firsts thefts from 1MDB through its initial ‘joint venture’ with PetroSaudi. That first damning expose had come out on March 1st.
Uma Devi then gave more details on how those three later accounts, which are at the heart of the series of charges realating to this first court case, were funded. Following the initial RM12.5 million transferred from the two original accounts, a further RM64 million was credited into account (20112022011880) between July 8, 2014 and Feb 10, 2015.
It is now established that the source of these later sums of cash was the 1MDB subsidiary SRC International and the court has heard how much of the money was spent on Najib’s personal life-style (credit cards, home refurbishments, anti-ageing treatments etc) and political expenses, including paying allies and a number of propaganda and media outfits.
Najib no longers denies these transactions, according to his defence, he merely says that he was duped by Jho Low into thinking the money had come from the Saudi ‘donation’ rather than SRC.
However, it will be interesting to see how the defence resolves certain issues that arise from these explanations on behalf of their client.*
The first is why did Najib consider it legitimate to spend the ‘Saudi donation’ money on diamonds, holidays and other personal luxuries, when he has several times said publicly that none of this money was spent on ‘personal’ things?
The claim likewise clashes with earlier statements that Najib at least thought that all the unused money was returned to the ‘donor’ after the election (in fact, after it was returned to Tanore Finance Corporation Jho Low splashed most of it on buying and selling artwork and other suspected laundering activities).
The second and even trickier matter relates to the subsequent RM64 million entering those three accounts between July 2014 and February 2015. The money was stolen from SRC International but Najib has said he thought it had come from the ‘Saudi donor’.
Put simply, if Najib believed he had returned all those hundreds of millions to the ‘Saudi donor’ back in August 2013 how could he at the same time have been of the understanding that those millions entering his new accounts a whole year later had come from that self same source?
Did he think he was still receiving money that he had sent back a year before?
Yesterday, the AmBank manager made clear that the named owner of a bank account is the person legally responsible for transfers both in and out of that account, whether or not they have designated someone else to manage it or sign cheques.
Yet it would seem that Najib is resting on the argument that he was taken in by his employees who stuffed money into accounts he allowed them to manage. If so, he would have to have swallowed a series of changing and improbable lies yet to be clarified before the court or to have turned a blind eye to the reasons behind an increasingly healthy bank account.
The courts will decide if he (and therefore presumably the rest of us) can get away with that sort of thing.
^amended. This article previously queried whether the defendant would take the stand, which is presently not at issue.