Ex-BSI banker trial: I never worked for Jho Low, says Yeo Jiawei

SINGAPORE - Former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei said on Friday (Nov 11) that he had never been employed by Low Taek Jho nor had he ever "received a single cent" from the controversial Malaysian tycoon, better known as Jho Low.

Yeo was testifying for the second straight day in his trial in a money laundering probe linked to scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1MDB.

Yeo, under examination by defence lawyer Philip Fong, disputed allegations by his former boss Kevin Swampillai that he got a job offer from Low.

"That's his assumption," Yeo said in day nine of the trial for which he faces four counts of witness tampering, adding he couldn't tell Mr Swampillai that the job offer came from rival bank UBS.

"I never ever mentioned to Mr Swampillai that I was going to work for Jho Low. That's simply not true.

"It wasn't Low who offered me S$500,000 a year. My last annual pay at BSI was S$450,000. If I was going to join Jho Low, I won't be asking for just S$50,000 more."

Yeo added that Low was just a client introduced to him by former BSI banker Yak Yew Chee because Low wanted to set up a trust. "I never worked for or with him."

On the prosecution's photo evidence of Yeo travelling in a private jet to Hong Kong with the Malaysian billionaire, Yeo said he "sneaked the photo" because he "got carried away" as it was his "first time on a private jet."

 

"If I was close to Low, I won't be sitting on the very end (of the plane) sneaking a photo. I will probably be having a selfie with him."

He added he spent just five minutes on the private jet talking to Low about trusts that can be set up through Amicorp.

Yeo also disputed his associate Samuel Goh Sze Wei's testimony that he was doing everything on Yeo's instructions.

Yeo was accused of telling Goh on March 27, 2016 to lie to the police that the monies Goh transferred to Bridgerock Investment, a company Yeo beneficially owned, were Goh's investments.

Goh was a director of Bridge Capital Absolute Return Fund, the Cayman Islands-registered fund, in which 1MDB had invested in 2012, that was managed by Bridge Partners, according to media reports.

"He is director of the fund, so there are a lot of things he has to do, for example, sorting out the audit of the fund, liaising with the administrator and banks. So it is untrue that everything he does must be instructed by me. I bring in the clients, but Sam handles the operational part of the business. But he claims he is like a robot taking instructions from me.

"If I really wanted somebody to be a robot and sign whatever I sign, I can easily get a nominee director who will cost S$1,000 to S$2,000 a year. Why go into a partnership with a robot? It doesn't make sense."

According to prosecutors, Yeo had allegedly arranged for his firm Bridgerock and GTB Investment, a firm controlled by Mr Swampillai, to receive a significant portion of referral fees for their own benefit.

Under the arrangement, a portion of the management fees paid by 1MDB unit Brazen Sky to fund manager Bridge Partners Investment Management (Cayman) Ltd (BPIM), went to Bridge Global Managers (BGM) before passing to the firms owned by Yeo and Mr Swampillai.

Yeo denied telling Goh to destroy referral fee agreements between BPIM and BGM, and BGM and Bridgerock.

"I never told him to destroy the documents. Maybe he decided to destroy them himself," he said.

He also denied involvement in negotiating referral fees with financial services firm Amicorp, which set up fiduciary fund structures for fake entities supposedly linked to the legitimate Aabar Investments PJS, a unit of Abu Dhabi state fund International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC).

Among the fake entities was Aabar Investments PJS Ltd based in the British Virgin Islands. It is reported to have received US$3.5 billion from 1MDB.