Ex-BSI banker Seah gets 2 weeks' jail and $10k fine

The prosecution said the actions of Yvonne Seah Yew Foong (right) and others in the 1MDB case had brought disrepute to Singapore's financial system.
The prosecution said the actions of Yvonne Seah Yew Foong (above) and others in the 1MDB case had brought disrepute to Singapore's financial system.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

She is the second person to be convicted on charges linked to Singapore's 1MDB probe

Former BSI senior banker Yvonne Seah Yew Foong was sentenced to two weeks' jail and a $10,000 fine yesterday.

She became the second person to be convicted in Singapore's probe into massive money laundering linked to the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Seah, 45, yesterday pleaded guilty to two charges of forgery and one charge of failing to report suspicious transactions allegedly related to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho - also known as Mr Jho Low.

The other four charges were taken into consideration for sentencing. Prosecutors had asked for two weeks' jail and a $12,000 fine.

Seah's lawyer Peter Low asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence, but Deputy Public Prosecutor Nathaniel Khng said "fines for the well-heeled often fail to amount to either sufficient or meaningful deterrence".

Seah's lawyer Peter Low asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence, but Deputy Public Prosecutor Nathaniel Khng said "fines for the well-heeled often fail to amount to either sufficient or meaningful deterrence".

"This principle would apply with particular force in the context of highly paid private bankers of seniority like (Seah) - with the amount of money that they earn, a fine would have no deterrent effect," the DPP added.

Yak Yew Chee, Mr Jho Low's private banker and Seah's direct boss, is serving an 18-week jail term after pleading guilty last month to similar offences. Yak, 57, who was fined $24,000, surrendered $7.5 million "to demonstrate his genuine contrition", his lawyer said.

Singapore is the only nation that has so far secured convictions related to hundreds of millions misappropriated from 1MDB and moved through accounts in several banks including Standard Chartered Bank, Falcon Bank, Coutts and BSI.

In seeking a custodial sentence, DPP Khng said: "There can be no doubt that the actions of (Seah) and others involved in this matter had, to some extent, brought about some degree of disrepute to our financial system.

"Anything less will have no deterrent effect on wealthy bankers like (Seah), given that (Seah) has shown a lack of remorse by her over-eagerness to heap the blame on Yak."

Mr Jho Low has been identified by Singapore authorities as a person of interest in an ongoing probe into illicit transactions involving 1MDB.

Prosecutors said yesterday Seah closely assisted Yak in managing the relationship with Mr Jho Low and his father Low Hock Peng.

The charges against Yak and Seah relate to the transfer on Nov 2, 2012, of US$153 million from a Coutts Zurich account of Good Star, a firm Mr Jho Low controlled, to the BSI Singapore account of Abu Dhabi-Kuwait-Malaysia Investment Corp, which Mr Jho Low could access.

Three days later, the US$153 million was moved to Mr Low Hock Peng's BSI account. On Nov 7, US$150 million was moved to another BSI account held by Mr Jho Low. From his account, US$110 million was moved to a Swiss account of Selune, a firm he beneficially owned.

Another charge related to Yak's forgery of a reference letter on Feb 18, 2014, to Mr Olivier Blanchet of French bank BNP Paribas to mislead him into believing that it was signed with BSI's authority. The letter asserted the Low family was a "client of good standing" with cumulative wealth of US$1.63 billion.

Seah was charged with helping Yak forge that letter. She also helped him forge another reference letter on May 19, 2014, to Swiss financial advisory firm Kendris.

DPP Khng said Seah "knowingly breached the internal regulations by signing the BNP Paribas letter and the Kendris letter with Yak and herself as the only signatories".

"Seah signed on the two letters to please Yak and to enable both of them to maintain the relationship with Jho Low. Through his connections, Jho Low as their most important client and transactions involving him were crucial to the significant bonuses that Seah earned," DPP Khng added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-BSI banker Seah gets 2 weeks' jail and $10k fine'. Print Edition | Subscribe