Ex-BSI banker trial: Yeo Jiawei 'just a middleman' for Jho Low and associates, says defence lawyer

Former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei was merely an "intermediary" and "messenger" for instructions that ultimately came from Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho, said Yeo's lawyer. PHOTO: COURT DOCUMENT

SINGAPORE - Former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, a key figure in an alleged money laundering operation linked to scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was merely an "intermediary" and "messenger" for instructions that ultimately came from Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, and his close business associates, Yeo's lawyer Philip Fong argued on Tuesday morning (Nov 8).

Mr Fong was cross-examining Amicorp relationship manager Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto on day six of the trial of Yeo, who faces four counts of obstructing justice by allegedly urging witnesses to lie to police and destroy evidence after being arrested on March 17 in connection with 1MDB-related money laundering.

Mr Carvalho on Monday testified that Yeo had become arrogant after becoming a "consultant and adviser" to Low and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny, a former high-level official of Abu Dhabi state fund International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC).

Mr Al-Husseiny is also one of four people named in the United States Department of Justice's civil suits to seize assets purchased with billions of dollars allegedly embezzled from 1MDB. The other three are Riza Aziz, who is Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's stepson, Low, and Abu Dhabi government official Khadem al-Qubaisi.

In his cross examination Mr Fong said Yeo, on behalf of Swiss bank BSI in Singapore, had contacted Mr Carvalho for the first time in 2011 to set up a fund structure for his client, a sovereign wealth fund in Malaysia.

"After he left BSI, Yeo was relaying instructions to Amicorp on behalf of his client, Aabar, and Al-Husseiny, then CEO of Aabar Abu Dhabi," Mr Fong said. "Amicorp ascertained source of instructions was ultimately from Al Husseiny? And Amicorp verified that to be the case?"

Mr Carvalho agreed.

"Yeo was just an intermediary and messenger?" Mr Fong said.

Mr Carvalho replied: "A messenger doesn't fly private jets, .... or stay in (Emirates) Palace Hotel. He wasn't just a DHL messenger."

Emirates Palace is a five star luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi, which Mr Carvalho said on Monday that Yeo had name-dropped when "talking big about spending nights in expensive hotels."

But Mr Fong maintained that Yeo wasn't given any power of attorney, and had no authority to make decisions on behalf of client.

When Yeo was processed payment of US$1.36 million for the 27 tickets to the Manny Pacquiao boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, he was merely doing so on the instructions of Low's close business associate Eric Tan Kim Loong, Mr Fong said.

Similarly, Yeo, on the instructions of Mr Low and Mr Tan, also asked Amicorp to top up the Las Vegas casino membership cards of both men by US$1 million each, Mr Fong said.

He also disputed Mr Carvalho's testimony about Yeo's jet setting lifestyle after he left BSI, saying Mr Carvalho was envious of Yeo because he appeared to be doing better and had more contacts than Mr Carvalho.

Mr Carvalho had told the court yesterday that Yeo's relationship with Mr Low was so close that he travelled on his private jet, accompanied him on his luxury yacht Equanimity on a business trip to the Caribbean and stayed at five-star beach-front resort Sandy Lane, one of the most luxurious hotels in Barbados.

Under cross examination today, Mr Carvalho said Yeo upgraded from a Rolex, estimated at between US$10,000-US$15,000, to an Audemar Piguet which cost, in his estimates, US$50,000. But Mr Fong disagreed, saying the watch was only worth US$20,000.

Mr Fong also disputed Mr Carvalho's testimony that Yeo was always "talking big about flying private jets", saying he did so less than three times and it was for work purposes only."

Mr Carvalho disagreed, saying Yeo flew 15 times on a private jet to meet Low and Al Husseiny.

Mr Fong further disputed Mr Carvalho's testimony that Yeo had told him to "not come to Singapore," because UBS had been raided by CAD and that Amicorp could be raided as well. And that Yeo didn't tell Mr Carvalho to destroy his laptop nor instructed Aloysius Enci Mun, his colleague, to lie to the CAD if questioned, said Mr Fong.

Mr Carvalho had made these statements to the CAD to "ensure he would not be implicated in dealings with Jho Low, A Husseiny and Eric Tan," Mr Fong said.

"That's not true," Mr Carvalho replied.

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