Ex-BSI banker on trial

WhatsApp texts 'show Yeo's big role in bank deal'

Prosecution points to inconsistencies in his testimony where he says he's just a bit player

Heated text messages sent by former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei were produced in court yesterday as prosecutors continued to attack his claims that he was just a bit player in a huge money laundering scam involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund.

The messages centred on a deal by a unit owned by Abu Dhabi state fund International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) to buy out Amicorp Bank in Barbados. It was alleged that Yeo was angry when he suspected the part-owner of Amicorp Bank of trying to cut him out of the deal that he had brokered.

Yeo called the executive "difficult" and even unleashed foul-mouthed messages, the court heard. He told Amicorp relationship manager Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto via WhatsApp in April last year: "Tell him (the Amicorp part-owner) to go fly kite. I'm the f****** relevant person. Tell him if he wants, fly down to see me."

The prosecution said this showed Yeo played a far bigger role than that of a mere intermediary to Malaysian tycoon Jho Low and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al Husseiny. Both are being investigated over money laundering linked to 1MDB. In fact, Yeo was so trusted by Mr Low and Al Husseiny, ex-chief executive of the IPIC unit, that he sat in on meetings with their lawyers over the purchase of the Barbados bank.

The prosecution pointed to alleged inconsistencies in Yeo's testimony when he claimed he was a mere "business introducer, intermediary, relationship manager and independent consultant" when servicing Al Husseiny, Mr Low and a close Low associate, Mr Eric Tan Kim Loong.

Yeo had downplayed his part yesterday, saying: "I was the introducer but I don't play an important role. Without me, they can still do a deal."

But in earlier WhatsApp exchanges with Mr Carvalho, Yeo had told him to tell Amicorp senior management that they must talk to him first before Al Husseiny.

Yeo had messaged Mr Carvalho: "He (Amicorp CEO) should understand that without my relationships with these people, Amicorp... will not get these deals."

But yesterday, Yeo testified: "I'm the independent consultant introducing the deal to Amicorp and I want to be paid." In another WhatsApp exchange with Mr Carvalho, Yeo said he had been "mandated" to run the Barbados bank project.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng said Yeo's "deep" involvement in the Amicorp deal was "motive" for frustrating the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) probe.

Yeo, facing four counts of witness tampering, had allegedly asked Mr Carvalho to get rid of his laptop, to not come to Singapore and to tell his assistant to lie to the CAD. DPP Tan added: "It showed arrogance in your attitude." Yeo disagreed: "I'm just trying to protect my interest."

The prosecution also claimed that Yeo was "so arrogant he could even override" Mr Low's brother, Szen, over a payment transfer through his Amicorp bank account. Yeo told Mr Carvalho via WhatsApp to "ignore" Szen's calls. Mr Tan said: "This shows you are in the position to control Szen Low's account."

The trial continues on Nov 22.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2016, with the headline 'WhatsApp texts 'show Yeo's big role in bank deal' '. Subscribe