Ex-banker faces two fresh charges

1MDB fined by Bank Negara
1MDB fined by Bank Negara

S'porean accused of cheating BSI on 1MDB funds, asking another person to lie to police

A Singaporean former private banker linked to troubled Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was yesterday charged with cheating which involved money from the fund, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Yeo Jiawei, 33, a former wealth planner with the Singapore unit of Swiss private bank BSI, has been remanded since he was first charged with receiving benefits from criminal conduct. He is accused of receiving $200,000 in his Bank of China account on or around Jan 30, 2013.

Yesterday, he was charged with cheating BSI by dishonestly concealing from his former employer that he would receive about US$1.6 million (S$2.1 million) a year through a firm he controlled, as part of an annual management fee paid by Brazen Sky, a subsidiary of 1MDB, to a Cayman Islands firm, Bridge Partners Investment Management.

Thus BSI, according to the charge against Yeo, was dishonestly induced into entering into a referral agreement with the Cayman firm, for 0.53 per cent of assets under its management.

This is the first time that a 1MDB-related entity has been mentioned in a Singapore court. News agency Bloomberg had earlier reported that Yeo's first charge on April 16 was the result of probes into the money flows of 1MDB, whose advisory board is headed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The case is 'without doubt, the most complex cross-border investigation' that the police's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has ever been involved in, Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck said.

Yeo was yesterday also charged with asking another person, Mr Samuel Goh Sze-Wei, to falsely tell police that money Mr Goh transferred to the same firm under Yeo's control was Mr Goh's investment.

Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck successfully applied for Yeo's continued custody and denial of access to lawyers - the State's third such application to date.

In a half-hour court session, Mr Kwek told District Judge Christopher Goh that the case is "without doubt, the most complex cross-border investigation" that the police's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) had ever been involved in.

"It involved several jurisdictions, numerous corporate entities, multiple transactions spanning several years (2011-2015), and a staggering amount of monies," he said.

"Investigations to date reveal that this accused has had a significant role in the movement of large amounts of monies and the concealment of transactions."

He said statements have been taken from Yeo daily since Sunday, and multiple witnesses have been and are still being interviewed, giving rise to fresh evidence.

Yeo's close family members are also under investigation for money laundering, Mr Kwek said.

Prior to his arrest last month, Yeo had access to lawyers, and is "fully aware of his rights and the nature of investigatory procedures", Mr Kwek added. "In fact, the accused himself has given 'advice' to other witnesses, telling one witness that he should 'play poker' with the CAD."

Yeo's lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, managing partner of Harry Elias Partnership, argued otherwise. "There is no reason to continue to hold him indefinitely in breach of the presumption of innocence and, worse still, deny him his constitutional right to counsel," he said.

Yeo, whose passport has been impounded, has deep roots in Singapore and has a daughter aged three, Mr Fong said.

With two weeks since his arrest, and seven months since he was called to assist in investigations, the lawyer said the authorities have had more than enough time. "It would make a mockery of our fundamental liberties if access to counsel is refused on mere speculation that talking to a lawyer would make the accused more uncooperative."

Dressed in an orange polo shirt and handcuffed with his hands in front of him, Yeo displayed little emotion as he listened intently to the court session via video link.

The case will be mentioned in court again on May 5.

Yeo's charges in Singapore are the latest twist in the 1MDB saga, with the authorities in Malaysia, Switzerland, the US and Luxembourg also investigating claims that the fund was used to funnel money to politically connected individuals.

Separately, Malaysia's central bank yesterday said it has fined 1MDB an unspecified amount for failing to comply with bank rules.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-banker faces two fresh charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe