The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had on 6 September 2016 made very specific allegations against Ambank Malaysia and its officials of facilitating and abetting money-laundering when billions of ringgit was transferred into the bank accounts of Dato’ Seri Najib Razak.
In making the allegations, the prestigious financial paper substantiated the claims with private conversations between senior Ambank officials with Low Taek Jho, who was carrying out the transactions on behalf of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister gave Low access to his accounts, according to investigative documents sighted by WSJ. His primary contact at AmBank was Joanna Yu, the banker he had warned via BlackBerry to communicate discreetly. Cheah Tek Kuang, a senior AmBank executive and adviser to the bank’s chairman, handled the account personally, the BlackBerry messages indicate.
On the assumption that the messages were genuine, they clearly indicated a conspiracy by the above parties to at best hide the transactions from scrutiny, and at worst, blatant masking of the illicit transactions as legitimate ones.
According to WSJ, Low sent hampers of food to Yu and lunched with her at noodle shops, according to the phone messages. He kept reinforcing the need for secrecy: “v v important no one should know in ambank besides u or cheah or get hold of statement,” one message said. “Cause if it gets on internet where funds were from then headache.”
Yu even made recommendations on which US correspondent bank will raise less questions involving the transfers. They discussed whether to use Wells Fargo & Co. or J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
“Can do JP, but may raise ques too…suspect better keep to wachovia,” Ms. Yu wrote, referring to a unit of Wells Fargo.
“Okay, wachovia then,” he replied. The transfer went through the Wells Fargo unit.
The above conversations raises major concerns of a high-level conspiracy to enable the money-laundering transactions to take place without being questioned or detected.
As the parties responsible for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Act (AMLA), the Royal Malaysian Police and particularly, Bank Negara must take immediate actions to investigate the above very serious allegations.
They must be investigated, and if found true, concrete actions must be taken to protect the integrity of our banking institutions and financial system. Otherwise, the hard-earned reputation of Bank Negara and Malaysia will take a severe beating.
Instead, Malaysia may become an infamous haven for the rich and powerful criminals to abuse our banking institutions to hide and launder their ill-gotten wealth.