Sin­ga­porean banker jailed for role in Malaysia 1MDB saga

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

SIN­GA­PORE: A Sin­ga­porean pri­vate banker was jailed on fraud charges re­lat­ing to Malaysia’s 1MDB fi­nan­cial scan­dal yes­ter­day, be­com­ing the first fig­ure to be con­victed in the in­ter­na­tional multi-bil­lion-dol­lar saga. Al­le­ga­tions that huge sums were mis­ap­pro­pri­ated from the Malaysian state fund through money-laun­der­ing have trig­gered a mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal which has em­broiled Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak.

Prose­cu­tors said Yak Yew Chee, a for­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at the Sin­ga­pore branch of Swiss bank BSI, helped man­age funds linked to 1MDB, which was set up by Na­jib with the help of a close fam­ily friend, Malaysian fi­nancier Low Taek Jho. Yak, 57, who was also a pri­vate banker to Low, forged ref­er­ence let­ters to Swiss banks and funds, and failed to re­port sus­pi­cious money trans­fers in­volv­ing ac­counts be­long­ing to his client, the prose­cu­tors said.

He was sen­tenced to 18 weeks in jail af­ter plead­ing guilty to four charges of forgery and fail­ure to re­port sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions re­lated to the in­vest­ment fund. He was also fined Sg$24,000 ($17,000) by a Sin­ga­pore dis­trict court. One of these trans­ac­tions saw a 1MDB sub­sidiary trans­fer $110 mil­lion, chan­neled through six banks and nine ac­counts, to the Swiss bank ac­count of Selune Ltd, a com­pany US in­ves­ti­ga­tors said is owned by Low.

The banker for the sub­sidiary, 1MDB En­ergy, was Fal­con Pri­vate Bank, whose Sin­ga­pore branch was shut down by reg­u­la­tors this year. The com­plex web of trans­ac­tions cut across in­ter­na­tional bor­ders as the money passed through ac­counts con­trolled by Low and his fa­ther. The trans­ac­tions were flagged as sus­pi­cious by BSI com­pli­ance of­fi­cers but dis­missed by the bank’s se­nior man­age­ment who said that “in­tra-fam­ily trans­fers are not al­ways go­ing to be log­i­cal”, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Yak was paid a bonus of Sg$7.5 mil­lion ($5.32 mil­lion) for his deal­ings with Low that has now been for­feited to the state. Na­jib, Low and 1MDB have all strongly de­nied any wrong­do­ing. Be­fore hand­ing down the sen­tence, judge Jen­nifer Marie said she hoped “to send a strong sig­nal to the pub­lic and er­rant bankers in par­tic­u­lar that the courts will not tol­er­ate such con­duct that harms the stand­ing and rep­u­ta­tion of the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions of Sin­ga­pore”.

Yak Yew Chee

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