Ex-BSI banker on trial

Ex-BSI banker trial: Yeo Jiawei amassed S$23.9m in just 15 months after leaving BSI, say prosecutors

A woman types the entry code at the entrance to the BSI Bank Ltd. headquarters in Singapore, on May 24, 2016.
A woman types the entry code at the entrance to the BSI Bank Ltd. headquarters in Singapore, on May 24, 2016.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Unbelievable to amass sum in only 15 months by just acting as introducer, intermediary: DPP

The only way former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei could earn $23.9 million in less than 15 months was by taking "secret profits" linked to a money-laundering scam involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), prosecutors contended yesterday.

The allegations came on the final day of Yeo's 12-day trial on four charges of obstructing justice. District Judge Ng Peng Hong will deliver the verdict on Dec 21. The prosecution's cross-examination of Yeo focused on the "illicit" wealth he allegedly accumulated during and after leaving BSI.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng said to Yeo: "I put it to you that it is quite unbelievable to amass so much - $23.9 million - in just one year and three months, by just acting as an 'introducer, intermediary, independent consultant or relationship manager'.

"I put it to you, your illicit wealth after your BSI days arose from deals that you were involved in together with (Malaysian tycoon) Jho Low, Eric Tan Kim Loong and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al Husseiny." Eric Tan was a close business associate of Low's, while Al Husseiny is the former CEO of Aabar Investments PJS, a unit owned by Abu Dhabi state fund International Petroleum Investment Co. All three are being probed over money laundering linked to 1MDB.

Yeo replied that the Commercial Affairs Department "forgot these are referral fees earned from one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world", referring to Aabar.

Yeo pointed to former BSI banker Yak Yew Chee, 57, who earned $27 million from BSI from 2011 to 2015. Mr Tan countered: "Yak earned $27 million in four years. You earned $23.9 million in one year and three months." Yak, who was Low's relationship manager, was jailed for 18 weeks last week and fined $24,000 for forgery and failing to disclose information on suspicious transactions. He is the first person convicted here in the 1MDB-linked probe.

Yeo, 33, yesterday defended his earnings as "referral fees" that were "directly earned". If he did not have a big sovereign wealth fund as a client, "definitely ... won't be making that kind of money", he added.

Yeo's net worth was just $2 million when he left the Swiss private bank in July 2014. By 2015, he counted among his assets, totalling $26 million, three Singapore properties worth a combined $6.15 million and two properties in Australia worth A$6 million, prosecutors said.

Yeo also denied involvement in setting up fund structures for fake entities supposedly linked to the legitimate Aabar Investments PJS. The fake entities are believed to have been used to channel 1MDB money. "I'm a victim too. There are many people in the bank that have dealt with Aabar, but everything has fallen to me," Yeo said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Yeo 'earned $24m through illicit profits' '. Print Edition | Subscribe