1MDB case: Ex-BSI banker convicted of witness tampering



Yeo, who was found guilty on all four charges against him, will be sentenced this afternoon.

Published Dec 22, 2016, 5:00 am SGT
Grace Leong

Former banker Yeo Jiawei was convicted yesterday on all four charges of witness tampering in the money laundering case involving billions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

In handing down his judgment after a 12-day trial last month, District Judge Ng Peng Hong described the former BSI Bank executive as "unreliable" and "not credible" as a witness.

Seven other charges involving cheating, money laundering and forgery will be dealt with next year. Yeo will be sentenced this afternoon. The Straits Times understands that because of the scale of the investigation and the nature of the offence, the prosecution will likely ask for a sentence that is beyond the norm.

For each of the four charges of tampering with witnesses, Yeo faces up to seven years in jail and a fine.

Judge Ng said in an oral decision: "The accused (Yeo) denied attempting to intentionally pervert the course of justice. He claimed the person who concocted the plan to lie to the CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) is Kevin Swampillai (his former supervisor at BSI).

"Having evaluated conflicting versions of evidence... I found the accused to be unreliable and not a credible witness. I disbelieved the evidence of the accused. He failed to raise reasonable doubts in the prosecution's case. The prosecution has proven the case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused in respect to all charges."

Yeo is the third person to be convicted in Singapore's 1MDB investigation.

Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, a former BSI private banker, was sentenced last week to two weeks in jail and a fine of $10,000 for helping to forge documents and failing to report suspicious transactions, allegedly related to Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho - also known as Jho Low.

Her supervisor, Yak Yew Chee, is serving an 18-week jail term and was fined $24,000 after pleading guilty last month to similar offences.

In his trial, Yeo, 33, repeatedly downplayed his close ties to Mr Low, who is under investigation here and elsewhere over money laundering claims linked to 1MDB.

But prosecutors found it "unbelievable" that Yeo managed to amass $23.9 million in just one year and three months by acting as an "introducer, intermediary, independent consultant or relationship manager".

He had been hired in December 2009 by Swiss-based BSI as a wealth planner. His net worth was $2 million at the time he left the private bank in July 2014, but it had swelled to $26 million by last year, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said his "illicit wealth" after his BSI days arose from deals that he was involved in with Mr Low, Mr Eric Tan Kim Loong and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al Husseiny.

Mr Tan was a close business associate of Mr Low, while Al Husseiny is the former chief executive of Aabar Investments PJS, a unit owned by Abu Dhabi state fund International Petroleum Investment Co.

All three were named "persons of interest" by the CAD in what it called the "most complex, sophisticated and largest money laundering case".

The court found that after Yeo's release on police bail, he had arranged a meeting on March 27 at the Swiss Club with his associate, Mr Samuel Goh Sze-Wei, and Mr Swampillai, then BSI's head of wealth management services. Yeo told them to lie to the police that the funds Mr Goh had transferred to companies owned by Yeo and Mr Swampillai were his investments.

Yeo had also told Mr Swampillai to "stick to the story" discussed earlier and to "play poker" with the CAD.

After he left BSI, Yeo continued with illicit transactions connected to the case. Some of these were allegedly conducted through legal and corporate services provider Amicorp Group.

Yeo was concerned that Amicorp employees Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto and Mun Enci Aloysius, who had received instructions from him in relation to these transactions, would be interviewed by the CAD.

He told Mr Carvalho to dispose of his laptop, and to "not travel to Singapore to avoid being interviewed" by the CAD. Yeo also abetted Mr Carvalho to tell Mr Aloysius to lie about not knowing of Yeo's dealings with Amicorp if he was questioned by the CAD.

During the trial, Mr Carvalho testified 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.