Ex-BSI banker Yeo Jiawei splurged US$8.2m on Australian properties: Report

An aerial view looking south of Main Beach from the Q1 observation deck, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia, on Aug 17, 2013.
An aerial view looking south of Main Beach from the Q1 observation deck, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Australia, on Aug 17, 2013. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SYDNEY - Former Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei, accused of laundering money linked to Malaysia's 1MDB scandal, used a tax haven company as part of an US$8.2 million (S$11.6 million) plus splurge on property in Australia's Gold Coast, The Guardian has reported.

Yeo's foray into Australian property began with a US$1.3-million luxury oceanfront apartment in Surfers Paradise, which he bought in 2014 direct from a collapsed developer, the report said.

It said Yeo is a director of a Seychelles-registered company that then paid a further US$6.9 million for commercial properties in Broadbeach, the town's trendy dining precinct, a year later.

Australian federal police are reportedly examining whether money illegally taken from 1MDB state development fund has been parked locally. That investigation includes whether any Australian citizens, residents or companies breached proceeds-of-crime laws, the Guardian report said.

Yeo, 34, was sentenced to 30 months in jail by Singapore's district court last December for witness tampering in an investigation related to 1MDB scandal in the Republic. The court heard that Yeo played a central role in the illicit movement of S$23.9 million of 1MDB funds during his tenure as a wealth manager at BSI Bank, Singapore.

The case on money-laundering charges will be heard in April.

The Australian newspaper reported last Monday that Australian federal police officers were assisting at least one of the three known authorities - in Switzerland, the United States and the Singapore - that are investigating where US$3.5 billion allegedly looted from 1MDB, Malaysia's sovereign-wealth fund, has wound up.

An AFP spokesman said officers were "assisting foreign law-enforcement partners in their investigations". This included "evaluating" whether any Australian citizens, residents or companies had breached ­proceeds-of-crime laws, it reported.

"Given this matter is the subject of evaluation, it is not appropriate to comment further," the spokesman said, according to Guardian.

1MDB was set up by Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak in 2009 "to drive sustainable economic development by forging strategic global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment".

The US Department of Justice alleges it was illegally drained of funds by others including Mr Najib's associate, the Malaysian businessman Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of the scheme.

The US has frozen about US$1.3 billion in assets so far, including profits from the Hollywood film The Wolf Of Wall Street; a Van Gogh painting and luxury properties in New York, Los Angeles and London.

Singaporean authorities regard Low as a "key person of interest", and has frozen about US$120m in assets held by Low and his immediate family last year.

Yeo's conviction last month related to attempts to conceal his ties to Low and hide his wealth. Yeo denied wrongdoing throughout his trial, including the prosecutor's claim that he received "secret profits" from a 1MDB money laundering scam.