Ex-BSI banker jailed 4½ years for cheating, money laundering

The sentence given to Yeo Jiawei yesterday was the longest so far arising from the massive global probe involving billions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB. In his mitigation plea, Yeo agreed to surrender to the Singapore authorities a
The sentence given to Yeo Jiawei yesterday was the longest so far arising from the massive global probe involving billions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB. In his mitigation plea, Yeo agreed to surrender to the Singapore authorities a substantial part of the $23.9 million he had amassed - and to help with the ongoing investigation.PHOTO: COURT DOCUMENTS

New sentence for Yeo Jiawei runs concurrently with rest of earlier term for obstruction of justice

Former BSI Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei was sentenced to 4½ years in jail yesterday for money laundering and cheating.

It was the longest sentence meted out so far over the massive global probe involving billions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Yeo, 34, is already in jail. He was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in jail in December last year after being convicted of four charges of obstruction of justice. The new sentence started yesterday, and runs concurrently with the rest of that jail term.

Yeo pleaded guilty yesterday to one charge each of money laundering and cheating, with eight other charges taken into consideration.

Singapore's investigations into the 1MDB money-laundering case, the largest investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department, have led to five people being convicted so far - four of them getting jail terms.

Prosecutors said Yeo played a central role in transactions involving sovereign wealth funds SRC International and 1MDB, and 1MDB unit Brazen Sky, and made secret profits on the side. At an earlier hearing, they said Yeo amassed $23.9 million in "secret profits" in 15 months after he left BSI in June 2014.

His guilty plea came after the Monetary Authority of Singapore wrapped up a two-year probe linked to 1MDB.

PURE GREED

Yeo had exploited his position for his own benefit out of pure greed.

PRINCIPAL DISTRICT JUDGE ONG HIAN SUN, in his sentencing remarks on former BSI Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei.

Prosecutors said he worked for Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, who remains a "key person of interest" in a wider ongoing money-laundering probe.

The two charges relate to a series of transactions involving Brazen Sky apparently aimed at covering up the transfer of US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) belonging to 1MDB to a bank account Mr Low beneficially owned.

"The main victim in this case is 1MDB," prosecutor Nathaniel Khng told the State Court yesterday.

He said investigations showed that Mr Low was a "key adviser" to 1MDB and SRC, was highly influential in these companies' decisions, and received huge sums of money traceable to 1MDB for the benefit of himself, his family and his close associates.

Yeo and his superior, Mr Kevin Swampillai, former BSI head of wealth management services, had put in place plans to obtain secret profits from fees paid to fiduciary funds involved in the transactions. The schemes were concealed from BSI Singapore, and resulted in Yeo earning more than US$3.5 million in illicit profits. He then laundered part of the proceeds into Singapore. One charge yesterday related to Yeo's laundering of US$500,000.

In his mitigation plea yesterday, Yeo said he regarded the transactions as "profitable opportunities with an important client" and was remorseful. He also agreed to surrender to the Singapore authorities a substantial part of the $23.9 million he had amassed - and to help with the ongoing probe.

Yeo's lawyer, Mr Derek Kang, said his client will not be able to work again in the financial industry.

The Straits Times understands that Yeo has dropped an appeal against his conviction and sentence for obstruction of justice.

Principal District Judge Ong Hian Sun, in sentencing remarks, said the courts must take an "uncompromising stance" to safeguard the integrity of the financial system here.

The judge said he had considered "the substantial amount of criminal benefit transferred by Yeo, actual knowledge on Yeo's part that the laundered monies were benefits of criminal conduct, and the sophistication of the concealment of the laundering".

"Yeo had exploited his position for his own benefit out of pure greed," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-BSI banker jailed 4-1/2 years for cheating, money laundering'. Print Edition | Subscribe