Singapore

Former BSI banker gets jail, fine in 1MDB probe

Another sentenced in Singapore's 1MDB probe

The fallout from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal has claimed another scalp in Singapore.

Ex-BSI private banker Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, 45, was jailed for two weeks and fined $10,000 yesterday for aiding the forging of documents and failing to report suspicious transactions relating to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho.

Mr Low, also known as Jho Low, was identified by Singapore authorities as a person of interest in its ongoing probe into illicit transactions involving 1MDB, amid allegations that he embezzled billions from the Malaysian state fund.

Last month, Seah's supervisor in BSI, former managing director Yak Yew Chee, was convicted of similar offences and isserving an 18-week jail term.

Next Wednesday, their former BSI colleague, Yeo Jiawei, 33, is expected to find out his fate after standing trial to charges for tampering with evidence relating to the case. He faces seven more charges for money laundering and cheating.

BSI Singapore was ordered to close by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in May due to suspicious transactions.

MAS has also linked three high-level BSI executives, including its chief executive officer and deputy CEO, to the case.

Seah admitted to three charges yesterday, The Straits Times reported.

In one charge, Seah is said to have helped her supervisor, Yak, in forging a reference letter sent to French bank BNP Paribas in 2014, which asserted Mr Low was a "client of good standing" with cumulative wealth of US$1.62 billion (S$2.33 billion).

This letter misled BNP to think it was issued with BSI's authority. Seah also helped Yak forge another reference letter to Swiss financial advisory firm Kendris months later.

BREACH

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nathaniel Khng said Seah "knowingly breached the internal regulations" by signing both letters with Yak and her as the only two signatories.

"Seah signed on the two letters to please Yak and to enable both of them to maintain the relationship with Jho Low," said DPP Khng.

"Through his connections, Jho Low as their most important client and transactions involving him were crucial to the significant bonuses Seah earned."

Between 2010 and last year, BSI paid Seah about $4.1 million, over half of which were bonuses.

Seah's mitigation plea cited a "long history of claustrophobia". But prosecutors said her condition had not been confirmed by any doctor.

She also claimed it was "practically impossible" for her to disobey her boss' instructions.

The charges against Yak and Seah relate to a multi-million transfer of money involving 1MDB, which has prompted a worldwide probe.

In October 2012, US$790 million was transferred out of 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Energy (Langat). Weeks later, US$110 million was transferred into the Swiss bank account of Selune, one of Mr Low's companies.

Prosecutors say the money was moved through nine business and personal accounts in six banks to disguise the true source. One personal account belonged to Mr Low's father.

"This circular flow of funds from Jho Low to his father and back to Jho Low before it was transferred out of BSI was questioned by an officer from BSI Compliance as 'nebulous to say the least and not acceptable in Compliance's view'," DPP Khng said in court.

But Mr Jho Low told BSI in an e-mail that he gave his father the money "as a matter of cultural respect and good fortune that arises from respect", and his father had decided to accept a token sum and give the rest back to him.

Casualties from the 1MDB fallout

2 JAILED

Yak Yew Chee, 57
Jailed 18 weeks, fined $24,000

  • The former managing director of BSI Singapore was the relationship manager for Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho.
  • Pleaded guilty in November to two counts each of forgery and failing to report suspicious transactions.
  • Also offered to give to the State $7.5 million of the bonuses he received from BSI.
     

Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, 45
Jailed 2 weeks, fined $10,000

  • A director at BSI Singapore, was the next most senior banker on Yak's team.
  • Pleaded guilty to three charges of aiding in forging documents and failing to report suspicious transactions.

2 CHARGED

Yeo Jiawei, 33
Charged with a total of nine counts, including obstruction of justice, money laundering, cheating and forgery.

  • Said to be a central player in facilitating illegal transactions involving 1MDB, the former BSI Singapore banker stood trial over 12 days to four charges of tampering with witnesses. The verdict is expected next Wednesday.
  • Other charges against him will be dealt with in April next year.
  • Prosecutors say Yeo made 
$24 million in the space of just 
15 months from the illegal dealings.
     

Kelvin Ang Wee Keng, 34
Charged with corruption, case pending.

  • Accused of giving $3,000 to a research analyst to expedite preparation of a favourable valuation report to be issued by his equity research firm.
  • Had held the position of associate director at NRA Capital between August 2008 and October 2015 and is currently research head at Phillip Securities.
  • Said to have dealt extensively for over two years with Yeo and some others implicated in "improper dealings".

2 BANKS CLOSED

BSI Singapore

  • For the first time since 1984, the Monetary Authority of Singapore forced a bank to shut down in May for 41 breaches of anti-money laundering rules, including failure to conduct enhanced customer due diligence on "high risk accounts" and to monitor suspicious customer transactions. MAS also fined BSI $13.3 million.


Falcon Private Bank

  • MAS pulled the Swiss merchant bank's licence in October over "serious failures in anti-money laundering controls and improper conduct by senior management at the head office in Switzerland as well as the Singapore Branch". It was also fined $4.3 million by MAS.

4 BANKS FINED

Standard Chartered Singapore

  • Fined $5.2 million by MAS for 28 breaches linked to anti-money laundering laws.


Coutts Singapore

  • Fined $2.4 million for 24 breaches.
     

UBS

  • Fined $1.3 million for 13 breaches.


DBS

  • Fined $1 million for 10 breaches.
1MDBMonetary Authority of Singaporecourt