Former BSI Singapore banker hauled to court amid 1MDB probe faces 2 more charges

The Swiss bank BSI’s Singapore office at Suntec City Tower 1. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - A former Singaporean private banker who was charged with receiving benefits from criminal conduct faces two new counts - cheating and perverting the course of justice.

Yeo Jiawei, 33, a former wealth planner with the Singapore unit of Swiss private bank BSI, was first charged with an offence under the the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act on April 16.

He allegedly received S$200,000 in his Bank of China account on or around Jan 30, 2013. The amount represented his benefits from cheating.

While no mention has been made in court of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Bloomberg had reported that Mr Yeo was charged with money laundering following investigations into the money flows of IMDB, a Malaysian state fund, whose advisory board is headed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In court on Thursday (April 28), Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck successfully argued for Yeo's continued remand and denial of access to lawyers.

Mr Kwek called the case the most complex ever handled by the police's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and involved multiple jurisdictions and a staggering amount of money.

In making his case, Mr Kwek noted that investigations are very much alive, with statements recorded from Yeo on April 24 to 27 and earlier on Thursday (April 28).

Mr Kwek said multiple witnesses continue to be interviewed and fresh evidence, including that from foreign authorities, were still garnered. Mr Yeo may have attempted to subvert the evidence of other witnesses before his arrest, said Mr Kwek.

Yeo's close family members are also under investigation for money laundering, he added.

Yeo's lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, managing partner of Harry Elias Partnership, argued that denying his client bail and access to his lawyers would be in breach of his presumption of innocence, and his constitutional right of access to counsel, thus making a mockery of fundamental liberties.

Yeo has deep roots in Singapore and has a three-year-old daughter, Mr Fong added.

Dressed in an orange polo shirt and handcuffed with his hands in front of him, Yeo displayed little emotion as he listened intently to the half-hour court proceedings via video-link.

District Judge Christopher Goh allowed Yeo to be remanded for an additional week at Central Police Division, with permission for him to be taken out for investigations.

The case will be mentioned again on May 5.

This is the third time that the State has applied to remand Yeo.

The judge also granted the prosecution's application to deny him access to lawyers.

Yeo's charges in Singapore are the latest twist in the 1MDB saga, with the authorities in Malaysia, Switzerland, the US and Luxembourg also investigating claims that the fund was used to funnel money to politically-connected individuals.

BSI handled accounts for 1MDB and parties including Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments PJSC, an entity the fund did business with, and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, according to documents entered into Singapore's High Court as part of an effort by another former BSI private banker to unfreeze assets.

The former banker, Mr Yak Yew Chee, had attempted to sue the Singapore Government in order to gain access to some of about S$10 million in his bank accounts frozen by the authorities as part of their 1MDB probe.

The Singapore authorities said in February that they had seized a large number of bank accounts over possible money-laundering and other offences linked to alleged financial mismanagement at 1MDB. Most of the bank accounts were seized in the second half of 2015.

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

Mr Yak was one of several senior employees who have left, or are said to be leaving the BSI Singapore in recent months.

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