Najib's AmBank accounts closed before freeze order

Public Accounts Committee chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamad and his deputy Tan Seng Giaw with an interim report on 1MDB.
Public Accounts Committee chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamad and his deputy Tan Seng Giaw with an interim report on 1MDB.PHOTO: THE STAR /ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Disclosure comes as panel accuses 1MDB of not being forthcoming with documents

The accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak at AmBank, a local lender through which he is alleged to have received US$700 million (S$947 million) linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), were closed in August 2013 and March this year, a multi-agency team probing the troubled state investor said yesterday.

This comes as Parliament's influential bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the debt-laden 1MDB, a Finance Ministry-owned firm, of not being forthcoming with banking and financial documents in a Cabinet-ordered audit of its operations.

The Special Task Force - comprising the police, anti-graft commission and central bank, and led by the public prosecutor - is the first official body to confirm that Datuk Seri Najib had accounts at AmBank. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) alleged last Friday that the transfers were made in March 2013 to one account, and between December last year and February this year to two others.

Although the task force did not say if these were the same accounts detailed by the WSJ, the August 2013 date of closure matches that of one of the accounts mentioned by the financial newspaper.

The Special Task Force mentioned the closure of Mr Najib's two accounts to explain that a July 6 freeze order involving six bank accounts did not include "bank accounts at AmBank Islamic held by the Prime Minister on that date... because the bank accounts had already been closed on Aug 30, 2013 and March 9, 2015 respectively".

"The Special Task Force has obtained bank documents related to these accounts," it added. The statement did not say whether any deposits matched those alleged by the WSJ, or if Mr Najib had other accounts at AmBank.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied receiving state funds for "personal gain", but has yet to deny the existence of either the accounts or transactions as published by the newspaper.

1MDB, whose headquarters was raided by the task force on Wednesday, came under further pressure when PAC chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamad said it had hindered Auditor-General (AG) Ambrin Buang's four-month probe into the firm. The audit was ordered by the Cabinet in March after 1MDB's RM42 billion (S$15 billion) debt as of last year became a lightning rod for calls by critics such as influential former premier Mahathir Mohamad for Mr Najib to resign.

"The Auditor-General has yet to get good cooperation from 1MDB," Datuk Jazlan told a press conference after an initial interview with Tan Sri Ambrin.

Sources also told The Straits Times there were "big black holes" in the interim report where money is unaccounted for owing to the missing documents, and investigations have not probed upwards to beleaguered Prime Minister Najib, who is 1MDB's chief adviser.

"The information confirms and adds to the picture we have so far, but there is money unaccounted for because 1MDB hasn't supplied the documents. Some were given to the AG only in June," said a source.

Mr Ambrin later told reporters that he did not have the same powers as the task force to obtain evidence, but his department would try to "get them from other sources". The audit will be completed only at the end of the year.

1MDB president and group executive director Arul Kanda said in a statement that it had submitted all documents in its possession to the National Audit Department. But it was unable to verify the claims that it did not fully cooperate "as the interim report has not yet been shared with 1MDB".

Additional reporting by Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Najib's AmBank accounts closed before freeze order'. Print Edition | Subscribe