Yak's lawyer withdraws request for release of frozen money

Senior Counsel Roderick Martin (centre) yesterday asked for the withdrawal of Mr Yak Yew Chee's application for the release of some of the money frozen as part of a probe over 1MDB. Mr Yak was not in court.
Senior Counsel Roderick Martin (centre) yesterday asked for the withdrawal of Mr Yak Yew Chee's application for the release of some of the money frozen as part of a probe over 1MDB. Mr Yak was not in court.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

In a surprise move, private banker Yak Yew Chee has withdrawn a request for the release of some of the money frozen by the authorities as part of a probe over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

His application is the first legal case arising from the authorities' probe into funds possibly linked to 1MDB. A senior private banker with the local unit of Swiss bank BSI, Mr Yak did not appear at yesterday's hearing at the High Court, but The Straits Times understands he is in Singapore.

Mr Yak was the relationship manager for 1MDB Global Investments, Aabar Investment PJS and SRC International, as well as for Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho.

He had earlier applied to release the funds in his accounts with DBS Bank, CIMB, OCBC and Bank of China, to pay taxes and legal fees as well as for basic expenses. A total of 12 bank accounts with about $9.71 million were seized by the authorities last September.

However, yesterday morning, his lawyer, Senior Counsel Roderick Martin of Martin & Partners, said in court that his client has sufficient funds in his foreign bank accounts to pay for his taxes and legal fees.

Mr Martin asked Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng for assurance that the funds, amounting to about $1.75 million in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, would not be seized if his client were to remit it back to Singapore for the payments.

DPP Tan said Mr Yak should have asked this before making the application, and saved everyone's time.

Whether or not Mr Yak remits the money back to Singapore was for him to decide, said DPP Tan.

Mr Martin then asked for the application to be withdrawn.

BSI's lawyer, Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull of Drew & Napier, said at the hearing that the bank is prepared to assist the court in any way.

The court documents filed by the DPP objecting to Mr Yak's earlier application, released yesterday, said that the banker had failed to disclose material facts relating to his available finances.

After Mr Yak was put on unpaid leave in May last year, he transferred a "staggering $5.7 million to his foreign bank accounts".

The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been investigating possible offences relating to 1MDB since the middle of last year. They said on Monday that they had seized a "large number" of bank accounts over possible money laundering and other offences linked to alleged financial mismanagement at 1MDB.

In response to media queries yesterday, the CAD said its investigations relate only to persons and entities involved in possible offences in Singapore.

Most of the bank accounts were seized in the second half of last year, it added.

Chong Koh Ping

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Yak's lawyer withdraws request for release of frozen money'. Print Edition | Subscribe