Ex-banker in 1MDB case faces more charges

He is accused of cheating former employer BSI, obstructing justice and transferring ill-gotten gains

Malaysia's iconic twin towers in the backdrop of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad logo at the Tun Razak Exchange under-development site in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia's iconic twin towers in the backdrop of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad logo at the Tun Razak Exchange under-development site in Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO: AFP

Three more charges have been slapped on a former private wealth banker caught up in a probe linked to embattled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Yeo Jiawei, 33, is described by prosecutors as playing a "central role" in the movement of large sums and concealing transactions.

Yeo, formerly with the Singapore arm of Swiss private bank BSI, was charged with cheating the bank in 2013 by dishonest concealment, transferring funds that represented his benefits from criminal conduct and obstructing justice, bringing the total charges against him to six.

In a new twist, prosecutors say investigators suspect "significant sums of money - S$200,000 and US$200,000 (S$271,300) - transferred on Yeo's behalf" to Harry Elias Partnership, the law firm of his lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, "likely constitute proceeds linked to criminal conduct".

Prosecutors already accuse Yeo of trying to obstruct justice, cheating his former employer and money laundering in earlier charges brought on April 16.

Yesterday, Yeo was charged with cheating his former employer in 2013 by hiding the fact that he would receive a portion of fees paid through Bridgerock Investment, a firm he controlled, to Pacific Harbor Holdings, the investment manager of Pacific Harbor Global Growth.

He was also charged with trying to obstruct justice when he asked Mr Kevin Swampillai, a former BSI wealth management services director, on March 27 to lie to police that money Mr Samuel Goh Sze-Wei transferred to Bridgerock Investment and GTB Investment was Mr Goh's investment.

In addition, he was charged with transferring US$500,000 from a Malayan Banking account in Bridgerock Investment's name on Nov 14, 2012, to an OCBC account in the name of Yishun Aquarium. This amount represents his "benefits from cheating".

District Judge Christopher Goh granted the prosecution's application to remand Yeo for another week, but allowed him "reasonable" access to his lawyer, with arrangements to be made by the Commercial Affairs Department.

Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck, in arguing for Yeo to be further remanded, said he "played a key role and schemed directly with those responsible for this complex web of criminal transactions and activities". Such activities are not limited to money laundering across jurisdictions, which already involves "staggering amounts", he said.

"Yeo himself has received secret profits of about US$4 million from Bridgerock Investment when he was in BSI. It is believed that the total amount he has received from illicit transactions are well in excess of this amount. Further, he has also taken extraordinary steps to cover his involvement and to also disguise the flows of illicit monies to himself and his family members."

Yeo showed "no qualms in asking other witnesses to lie and to interfere with investigations," he added. He said the prosecution has grounds to believe Yeo's wife had "made contact with other witnesses for reasons that may need further probing".

Responding to the allegations that funds transferred to Mr Fong's firm may be proceeds linked to criminal conduct, Mr Fong argued this remains a "bare assertion".

He said he needed access to Yeo to clarify this.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-banker in 1MDB case faces more charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe