Ex-BSI banker sentenced to 30 months' jail

Yeo committed the offences while on bail.
Yeo committed the offences while on bail.

The former banker caught up in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal was yesterday jailed for 30 months on four charges of witness tampering.

Yeo Jiawei, who showed little emotion when the sentence was handed down, worked at Swiss- based BSI Bank here when it became embroiled in the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from the state fund.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong told him: "In view of the seriousness of the offences committed, the main sentencing consideration must be one of deterrence."

The judge took into account Yeo's efforts to frustrate Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) probes and the lengths he went to in order to conceal illegal fund flows from 1MDB-linked accounts.

"The accused tried to cover up illicit gains received by... a firm beneficially owned by him. There was planning and premeditation in the commission of the offences.

"In this respect, the accused used Telegram and secondary phone lines belonging to third parties in facilitating the commission of offences and avoiding detection."

Judge Ng had described Yeo as an "unreliable" witness and "not credible" when he handed down guilty verdicts on Wednesday after a 12-day trial last month.

Yeo committed the offences while on police bail. His bail conditions barred him from contacting other individuals being investigated by the CAD, but the court found that he contravened these rules. Witness tampering can carry a jail term of up to seven years and fines.

Yeo's lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, said his client is "seriously considering an appeal against his conviction and sentence, and has two weeks to make up his mind". His sentence is backdated to April 16, when he was held in remand, and will take into account the eight months he spent in remand.

The prosecution wanted a sentence of three years, citing Yeo's "brazen premeditated attempts" to stymie CAD probes. It said he hid information on illicit transactions from which he benefited and tried to frustrate investigations into associates, including Malaysian Jho Low, who is at the centre of a global probe into the 1MDB case.

Yeo, 33, asked his former boss Kevin Swampillai and associate Samuel Goh to provide a false story to the CAD to cover up an illicit scheme to earn millions in secret profits without BSI's knowledge.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng cited Yeo's central role as an aggravating factor in his sentencing, describing him as a "link man and orchestrator".

He added that Yeo tried to "subvert" the CAD probe by asking Amicorp employee Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto to destroy a laptop containing transaction records and to stay away from Singapore.

Mr Carvalho's evidence showed a "clear link between Yeo and his principals and reveals that he was involved in... the transactions", which was key to establishing the illegal fund flows involving 1MDB, said Mr Tan.

Yeo's actions show "a hardened lack of remorse", he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-BSI banker sentenced to 30 months' jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe