Banker in 1MDB case worked closely with Malaysian PM’s crony

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

A BANKER on trial in Sin­ga­pore for his al­leged role in Malaysia’s 1MDB fund scan­dal worked closely with a friend of Malaysian Prime Minister Na­jib Razak, a court heard.

A pros­e­cu­tion wit­ness told a dis­trict court that Sin­ga­porean Yeo Ji­awei, 33, left his job at the local branch of Swiss bank BSI in 2014 to work with Low Taek Jho, a fam­ily friend of the Malaysian leader, and they con­ducted busi­ness in a se­cre­tive way.

Al­le­ga­tions of mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tions of bil­lions of dol­lars from 1MDB through money-laun­der­ing have trig­gered a cor­rup­tion scan­dal in Malaysia that has em­broiled Mr Na­jib. The prime minister, 1MDB and Mr Low have strongly de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

The wit­ness, ex-BSI man­ag­ing direc­tor Kevin Swampil­lai, said Mr Yeo trav­elled on a pri­vate jet used by Mr Low and ex­changed se­cre­tive text mes­sages with him.

“When Yeo worked with Low Taek Jho and con­sulted with his as­so­ciates, there was a great de­gree of se­crecy around what they did, how they spoke to each other, and ap­par­ently fic­ti­tious names were used when re­fer­ring to cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als,” Mr Swampil­lai told the court.

Mr Low, also known as Jho Low, had helped set up 1MDB and played a key role in its de­ci­sions.

Mr Yeo is on trial on charges of ob­struct­ing Sin­ga­pore’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the 1MDB scan­dal. Other charges will be tried later.

Apart from Sin­ga­pore, the scan­dal is also be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Switzer­land – be­cause Swiss banks were used to trans­fer il­licit funds – and the United States, where as­sets using al­leged laun­dered 1MDB money were pur­chased.

Mr Swampil­lai said Mr Yeo once sent him a pic­ture from a pri­vate plane show­ing Mr Low.

He said Mr Yeo and Mr Low also trav­elled to Las Ve­gas last year to watch the fight be­tween US box­ing cham­pion Floyd May­weather and the Philip­pines’ Manny Pac­quiao.

Sin­ga­pore pros­e­cu­tors said that Mr Yeo, the first per­son to be tried any­where in re­la­tion to the 1MDB case, “played a cen­tral role in many ac­tiv­i­ties con­nected with the money-laun­der­ing case”.

They said the case in­volved the cross-bor­der trans­fer of “stag­ger­ing” amounts of money.

Sin­ga­pore au­thor­i­ties have seized nearly US$180 mil­lion in as­sets in re­la­tion to their probe, half of them linked to Mr Low. They have closed the local branches of BSI and an­other Swiss bank, Fal­con, found to be in­volved in il­licit fund trans­fers.

In July the US Jus­tice Depart­ment filed law­suits in the United States al­leg­ing a mas­sive in­ter­na­tional con­spir­acy by Mr Na­jib’s rel­a­tives and as­so­ciates to steal bil­lions from 1MDB.

Swiss Fi­nan­cial Mar­ket Su­per­vi­sory Au­thor­ity FINMA said in Oc­to­ber that dur­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion from 2012 to 2015, it found that “as­sets amount­ing to ap­prox­i­mately $3.8 bil­lion were trans­ferred to ac­counts at Fal­con and as­so­ci­ated with the 1MDB Group”.

Mean­while, BSI’s takeover by fel­low pri­vate Swiss bank EFG In­ter­na­tional has been agreed at a “pre­lim­i­nary” price of $1.08 bil­lion, EFG said in a state­ment.

The takeover had been in the works be­fore news broke of BSI’s al­leged link to the Malaysian scan­dal.

Ev­i­dence of BSI’s pos­si­ble ties to money-laun­der­ing led FINMA to in­sist that the Lugano-based bank be fully in­te­grated within EFG and then dis­solved.

As part of the agree­ment, the banks have set aside as­sets to pro­tect EFG against any “dam­ages re­lat­ing to breaches of any rep­re­sen­ta­tions ... and other mat­ters re­lated to spe­cific le­gal cases”, in­clud­ing pos­si­bly with re­spect to 1MDB, the state­ment said. –

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