1MDB probe: Singapore private banker denies any wrongdoing

Men walking past a 1MDB billboard.
Men walking past a 1MDB billboard. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Singapore private banker caught up in a probe related to Malaysian state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has denied any wrongdoing, according to court papers released yesterday.

Mr Yak Yew Chee, who started working at Swiss bank BSI here in 2009, was put on unpaid leave by the bank between May and September last year as BSI launched investigations into whether there had been any "impropriety or misconduct" relating to client accounts.

On April 27 last year, prior to that leave, Mr Yak had signed a declaration stating that he did not give or receive any benefits from managing the accounts of 1MDB unit Brazen Sky, Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJSC and Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho.

 

In a series of 23 e-mail messages and letters exchanged between Mr Yak and BSI, reproduced in the court papers, Mr Yak maintained that he had been "wrongly accused" by the bank "of bribing clients to get business".

However, in mid-September last year, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) froze 12 of Mr Yak's bank accounts, including those with DBS Bank, CMIB, OCBC and the Bank of China, which hold some $9.71 million.

This was part of the CAD's investigations into whether the huge bonuses he earned from 2011 to 2014 were the fruit of criminal conduct.

The court papers show that, over the four years from 2011 to 2015, Mr Yak earned more than $27 million in salary and bonuses from BSI.

His base annual salary had jumped from $500,000 in 2011, to $600,000 the following year, and then to $1 million from 2013 on, the documents showed.

Mr Yak was commended by BSI group chief executive Alfredo Gysi, in a letter dated Dec 12, 2011, for his business successes and contributions to the bank - also reproduced in the court documents.

The bonuses that he was given saw big jumps during the same period. In 2011, he earned $649,000 in bonuses, and more than $2.5 million the following year. In 2013, his bonus ballooned to nearly $9.6 million and, in 2014, it grew to $10.5 million.

BSI, as part of its investigation, had asked Mr Yak repeatedly to go to its office in Suntec City, from August to September. Mr Yak refused to comply with the instructions until Oct 1, the e-mail messages show.

Mr Yak also asserted in his e-mail communication with the bank that it was trying to terminate his employment and deny him some $8.8 million of bonuses that had yet to be paid. The court documents indicate that Mr Yak was most recently paid his monthly salary of nearly $83,000 in a cheque dated Jan 27, 2016.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore private banker denies any wrongdoing'. Print Edition | Subscribe