Bank Negara’s RM53.7 million penalty on AmBank commendable but insufficient

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) must be commended for finally being able to impose a hefty fine of RM53.7 million on the AmBank Group.While the penalty may sound “punitive” enough in the Malaysian context, it pales in comparison to fines paid by JP Morgan to the tune of US$2 billion (RM8.45 billion) for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) violation. Similarly a sum of US$1.92 billion was imposed on HSBC for AML violation, too, in 2013. Incidentally, in both cases, many doubt its efficacy as a deterrent.

As the regulator of the financial and banking sector for the country, BNM must be relentless in going after wrong-doers. Not least, to turn around the fast-diminishing trust of both foreign and local investors in the transparency and financial governance of the local financial industry.

Following through the infamous revelation of the RM2.6 billion transferred to the personal accounts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also finance minister, back in July this year, one could not escape being oftentimes, angry for the many obvious “breaches” committed by the very-opaque 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).Yet, BNM remained astonishingly muted then. AmBank had in July even bullishly denied that they were being investigated by BNM for alleged anti-money laundering activities.

The rakyat can now arguably breathe a sigh of relief. But is that really so? Not quite perhaps.

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BNM urged to tell all regarding AmBank

Amanah’s Dzulkefly says the public must know why the company has incurred a RM54m penalty.


PETALING JAYA: Parti Amanah Negara today demanded full disclosure of the reasons why Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has imposed a RM53.7 million penalty on the AmBank Group.

Speaking to FMT, Amanah Strategy Director Dzulkefly Ahmad said AmBank must have committed serious crimes to incur such a huge penalty and the public needed to know what these crimes were.

A disclosure from Bank Negara would serve to impress upon industry players that a repeat of such crimes would warrant heavy punitive measures, he added.

Yesterday, Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Abdul Aziz confirmed that AMMB Holdings Bhd, also known as AmBank Group, had incurred the penalty, but she would not go into details, citing market sensitivity. She said the company had failed to comply with the central bank’s rules and regulations.

Dzulkefly cited unconfirmed reports that AmBank had committed multiple breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the Exchange Control Act.

He acknowledged that these were rumours, but he asked: “Are they true? And who were responsible for these offences?”

He also asked whether the perpetrators were acting “under duress from a higher order” and whether those in the “higher order” were complicit in any crime.

Dzulkefly demanded that BNM explain whether action was being taken against those responsible for the crimes and those abetting in them or whether they were being excused for their ignorance.

“One shudders at the thought that such crimes are rampant and yet not reported,” he said.

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