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Najib asked me to clear his name over RM2.6 billion in his account, says ex-BNM chief

Zeti Akhtar Aziz says she received the same request from a Cabinet member, and that she turned down both.

2 minute read
Former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz at the Kuala Lumpur court complex, July 27. Photo: Bernama
Former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz at the Kuala Lumpur court complex, July 27. Photo: Bernama

Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz told the High Court yesterday that Najib Razak had asked her to clear his name over the RM2.6 billion in his personal bank account.

However, Zeti said she refused to obey the former prime minister's request as she had no knowledge about his bank account.

"I was called to the Prime Minister's Office. He (Najib) made a request for me to issue a statement that he had done nothing wrong in his account.

"I informed him that I could not issue such a statement because I did not have knowledge of the transactions that had occurred in his account. He accepted this decision by me," the 46th prosecution witness said at Najib’s trial involving the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion from 1MDB funds.

She said soon after the meeting, she received a call from a Cabinet minister who made the same request for her to issue a statement, to which she gave the same answer.

Zeti, 76, who was BNM governor for 16 years from 2000, told the court that she had no knowledge of the RM2.6 billion remitted into Najib’s personal bank account at the time.

"Regarding the allegations made by Najib during his interview with Malaysiakini that was published on July 2, 2018, in which he claimed that I was aware of the RM2.6 billion in his account at AmIslamic Bank Bhd and that I did not raise any questions about it – I wish to unequivocally state that I had no knowledge of the transactions that were undertaken in his account at that material time," she said.

Zeti said that all account holders in the financial system are protected by the banking secrecy provisions in the legislation, thus no one can have access to any account unless the financial institution concerned detects suspicious activities in the account and reports the matter to the central bank.

She said the claim by Najib was false as at the time, she had no knowledge that the sum of RM2.6 billion had been remitted into his account and that the funds belonged to 1MDB.
Zeti said the main concern at the time was that AmBank did not report to BNM the more than 500 transactions relating to the account that were suspicious or irregular as required under Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla).

"Following the investigations, AmBank acknowledged these non-disclosures, false reporting and its failure in compliance with the prudential regulations.

"AmBank paid the highest penalty ever in our history amounting to RM59 million and was also required to set aside a minimum of RM100 million for remedial action to strengthen its internal systems for anti-money laundering/countering financing of terrorism compliance," she added.

When questioned by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib, Zeti told the court that no one in her family had ever taken 1MDB money.

Najib, 70, faces four charges of using his position to obtain bribes amounting to RM2.3 billion belonging to 1MDB and 21 charges of money laundering involving the same amount.

The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues Aug 14.