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Is the worst over for Malaysia’s AmBank?

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It has been a tough decade for AmBank Group as it navigated the aftermath of Malaysia’s 1MBD scandal. But following AmBank’s record legal settlement over its role in this corporate nightmare, the bank is emerging as a new takeover target.


In June 2017, Sulaiman Mohd Tahir was in his second year running Malaysia’s sixth-biggest bank by assets, AmBank Group, when he gave a soft-focus interview to a Malaysian jobsite called Graduan.com.

The interview topic was leadership, and the normally media-shy Sulaiman used the occasion to proclaim the virtues of a bank that he had joined in November 2015 as chief executive.

“Integrity is king,” Sulaiman said. “Understanding banking regulations, product knowledge and industry awareness are what all bankers should have. Customers will stay with banks they have confidence in. Such relationships are built on trust, professionalism and transparency.”

Customers will stay with banks they have confidence in. Such relationships are built on trust, professionalism and transparency
Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, AmBank
Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, AmBank.jpg

What followed for AmBank has been a corporate nightmare; the near-daily revelations about AmBank and its intimate relationship with Najib Razak, the now-disgraced former prime minister, showed how deeply involved the bank was in Najib’s systematic embezzlement of One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the sovereign fund he chaired.

Najib’s pillaging of 1MDB using his AmBank accounts occurred before Sulaiman was appointed chief executive at the lender in late 2015.

By the following year, the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were already investigating the myriad transactions that had sloshed through AmBank, from 1MDB and its associates to Najib.

When


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Eric Ellis
Eric Ellis has covered Asia for Euromoney since 2006. He is a former southeast Asia-correspondent for Fortune Magazine and Time, and an ex-Asia correspondent for Australia’s economic and business newspaper the Australian Financial Review.
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