Private banker Yak Yew Chee withdraws request to release funds frozen in 1MDB probe

Private banker Yak Yew Chee filed an application on Friday (Feb 5) to withdraw his request to release frozen funds. PHOTO: REUTERS
Swiss bank BSI's office in Suntec City. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - In a surprise turn of events, private banker Yak Yew Chee filed an application on Friday (Feb 5) to withdraw his request to the Singapore High Court to release some of about S$9.71 million in his bank accounts frozen by authorities here as part of investigations related to Malaysia state investor 1MDB.

This is the first legal case arising from the Singapore Government's probe into funds possibly linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Mr Yak, a senior private banker with the local unit of Swiss bank BSI, did not appear at Friday's hearing, but the Straits Times understands he is in Singapore.

Mr Yak had earlier applied to release the funds held in 12 bank accounts with DBS, CIMB, OCBC and Bank of China, to pay taxes and legal fees as well as for basic expenses.

However at the High Court on Friday morning, his lawyer, Roderick Martin of Martin & Partners, said that his client has sufficient funds in his foreign bank accounts to pay for his taxes and legal fees.

Mr Martin asked the Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng for assurance that the funds, amounting to around S$1.75 million in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), would not be seized if his client were to remit it back to Singapore for the payments.

DPP Tan said Mr Yak should have asked this before making the application, and save everyone's time.

Whether or not Mr Yak remits the money back to Singapore, was for him to decide, said the DPP.

Mr Martin then asked for the application to be withdrawn.

According to reports, Mr Yak was the relationship manager for 1MDB Global Investments, Aabar Investment PJS and SRC International, as well as for Mr Low Taek Jho.

Mr Low, also known as Jho Low, is a Malaysian businessman. He was reportedly to have been summoned to appear before Malaysia's Public Accounts Committee over the 1MDB saga.

Singapore authorities said on Monday that they had seized a "large number" of bank accounts over possible money-laundering and other offences linked to alleged financial mismanagement at 1MDB.

The court documents filed by the DPP objecting to Mr Yak's earlier application, released on Friday morning, said that the banker had failed to disclose material facts relating to his available finances:

- After Mr Yak was put on unpaid leave in May 2015 while investigations were being conducted by his employer, BSI Bank, and prior to 12 of his accounts being seized in September 2015, he transferred a "staggering S$5.7 million to his foreign bank accounts".

- From October 2015 onwards, he had also arranged for his salary of some S$82,500 per month to be paid by way of cheques, and has been able to deposit his salary - more than S$330,000 - into accounts with Julius Baer and ICBC

- By Mr Yak's own evidence, he earned more than S$27 million in salary and bonuses over the past 4 years, with S$8 million due to him. On the other hand, the CAD has only frozen bank accounts with funds amounting to approximately S$9.71 million, "leaving a staggering S$9 million unaccounted for".

The Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been investigating possible offences relating to 1MDB since the middle of last year.

In response to media queries, the CAD said that its investigations relate only to persons and entities involved in possible offences in Singapore.

Most of the bank accounts were seized in the second half of 2015, it added.

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