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Deutsche Bank told to speed up US$1 billion transfer as Najib wanted to make press statement, court hears

Former Deutsche Bank (M) Bhd managing director says they were told to transfer the funds as quickly as possible as it was a government-to-government transaction.

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The Kuala Lumpur High Court was today told that Deutsche Bank (M) Bhd (DBMB) was persistently pressed to speed up the transfer of US$1 billion from 1MDB as then prime minister Najib Razak wanted to make a press statement on the 1MDB joint-venture project with PetroSaudi International Ltd (PSI).

DBMB’s former managing director (head of global markets corporate sales) Jacqueline Ho Yek Wan, 51, said 1MDB’s former executive director Casey Tang Keng Chee had requested that DBMB execute the fund transfer as soon as possible because it was important to do so as it was a government-to-government transaction.

“He continued to persistently press upon DBMB again that DBMB needed to speed up the money transfer process as Najib wanted to make a press statement on the 1MDB joint-venture project with PSI. As such, we were urged to accelerate the US$1 billion remittance process into those two accounts.

“The US$1 billion was transferred out in two transactions. The first transaction was US$300 million to JP Morgan SA, for account number 7619400, and the second transaction was US$700 million to RBS Coutts Bank Ltd, for account number 11116073.

“Both transactions took place on Sept 30, 2009, at 3.14pm and 3.21pm,” she said.

Ho, the 30th prosecution witness, said this when reading out her witness statement at Najib’s trial on the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion in funds from 1MDB.

She said that account number 7619400 belonged to 1MDB-Petrosaudi while account number 11116073 belonged to Good Star Limited, owned by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.

Ho added that it was only a couple of days after the US$1 billion was sent out that Deutsche Bank found out that the account which received US$700 million was actually Good Star Limited instead of PetroSaudi International, as initially claimed by 1MDB on the day of the transactions.

At that time, the bank had asked 1MDB but its CEO Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi confirmed that Good Star Limited was a subsidiary of 1MDB’s purported joint-venture partner PSI.

Asked by Najib’s counsel Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed about the press statement, Ho said that Tang had come to Deutsche Bank’s office, which was in the same building as 1MDB’s office, and made the request to quickly carry out the transaction. She said he even asked the bank to do the transactions before 4pm as Najib wanted to announce the matter.

Wan Aizuddin: This purported representation by Tang motivated you to undertake this transaction as soon as you could?

Ho: I don’t think… I guess yes and no. In one sense we would have done it on that day anyway. It would go through a queue, for US$1 billion transactions we would probably finish it by around five or six something in the evening, but because he wanted it done before four, I had to ask my operations to prioritise the remittance before other clients.

When asked if the bank would have delayed the US$1 billion transactions until the next date if Tang had not mentioned the prime minister wanting to make the press statement, Ho said that the bank would not have delayed it until the next day as the client, 1MDB via its officer Tang, had given very strict instructions to send it out on Sept 30.

When further questioned if she now knew whether the status of the US$1 billion investment was a true investment as well as based on what she had read in the news about 1MDB and what authorities had hinted or told her during the 1MDB investigation, Ho said: “I guess what was hinted or implied, it was fraud essentially.”

Asked if she knew how Najib fit into the entire 1MDB matter then, Ho said: “At that point of time, we were told this was an important G2G transaction, the bank was under the impression that 1MDB would be like Khazanah Nasional in the sense that it would be a government investment vehicle.

“So from that point, obviously since it was owned by the Ministry of Finance and Najib was finance minister as well, it’s only natural that he would want to give a press statement about a large investment,” she said.

Najib, 68, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes totalling RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow.

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