Former BSI boss gets jail, fine in 1MDB-linked case

Yak (above) was Mr Low's relationship manager and the banker in charge of the 1MDB account for BSI. Court documents said Yak had forged a reference letter for Mr Low in November 2012 to help the Malaysian financier avoid questioning from another fina
Yak (above) was Mr Low's relationship manager and the banker in charge of the 1MDB account for BSI. Court documents said Yak had forged a reference letter for Mr Low in November 2012 to help the Malaysian financier avoid questioning from another financial institution in relation to transactions involving the sum of US$110 million.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Yak Yew Chee admits to 2 counts of forgery and 2 counts of not reporting suspicious transactions

A former boss of Swiss bank BSI here was jailed for 18 weeks yesterday and fined $24,000 on charges related to the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund.

Yak Yew Chee, 57, was the relationship manager of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, and the banker in charge of the 1MDB account for BSI.

He was slapped with seven charges a month ago in connection with Singapore's 1MDB probe.

Yesterday, Yak admitted to two counts of forgery, in 2012 and 2014, and two counts of not reporting suspicious transactions involving sums of US$110 million (S$155 million) and US$153 million in November 2012. The other three charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Court documents state that Yak forged a reference letter for Mr Low in November 2012. The aim was to help Mr Low avoid questioning from another financial institution in relation to US$110 million that police found was carefully spread across nine bank accounts and six different banks.

INTRA-FAMILY GIVE AND TAKE

I give it to him and he then takes a portion as token and gives it back to me for me to subsequently give to the family trust. I hope I do not need to keep explaining the same matter over and over again as our time is better spent generating wealth.

MR LOW TAEK JHO, in an e-mail to BSI dated Nov 7, 2012, explaining the transfer of funds to his father and back to him "as a matter of cultural respect and good fortune that arises from respect".

Yak's lawyer Lee Teck Leng told the court his client was "truly remorseful" and had cooperated with the Commercial Affairs Department in its investigations.

Yak is also voluntarily surrendering $7.5 million of his bonuses to the state. He reportedly drew more than $27 million in salary and bonuses from BSI from 2011 to last year.

Mr Lee added that Yak had taken the cue from top management in the way he conducted himself, as Mr Low "was not just my client's biggest customer, but was in fact BSI's biggest customer".

BSI Bank was expelled from Singapore in May for gross misconduct.

In one e-mail to BSI dated Nov 7, 2012, Mr Low declared that the rationale for the transfer of funds to his father and back to him was "as a matter of cultural respect and good fortune that arises from respect".

"I give it to him and he then takes a portion as token and gives it back to me for me to subsequently give to the family trust. I hope I do not need to keep explaining the same matter over and over again as our time is better spent generating wealth."

BSI eventually processed these fund flows after an unnamed senior BSI officer commented that "intra-family transfers are not always going to be logical".

In delivering Yak's sentence, deputy presiding judge Jennifer Marie said Singapore's integrity as a financial hub must be protected. "Bank officers should be seeking to safeguard the public trust... not to succumb to greed and the lure of huge bonuses or the treachery of 'important' clients," she said.

Yak could have been jailed for up to four years and fined on the forgery counts. Failing to report the suspicious transactions can bring fines of up to $20,000.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Former BSI boss gets jail, fine in 1MDB-linked case'. Print Edition | Subscribe