4 witnesses called on first day of 1MDB-linked trial

4 witnesses called on first day of 1MDB-linked trial

IN the keenly-awaited first trial day of former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, described as one of the "main Singapore-based suspect" in the massive money laundering case connected to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), prosecutors called four of nine witnesses on Monday to establish their case.

The trial that is scheduled to last till Nov 11 is in relation to the four charges filed against Yeo for obstructing the course of justice.

At the State Court, the prosecution led by deputy public prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng applied for the remaining seven charges on cheating, money laundering and forgery against Yeo to be "stood down", which means they will be dealt with later.

The prosecution's witnesses called on Monday included two forensic specialists from the Criminal Investigation Department's technology crime division; a long-serving secretary of Kevin Swampillai, who was former head of wealth management services at BSI Singapore and one of Yeo's bosses; and a Singtel customer service executive officer who provided call screening data to law enforcement agencies in their probe into the case.

Yeo, a former wealth planner of BSI Singapore who has been in custody since mid April this year and allegedly amassed some S$26 million from illicit schemes, appeared in court clad in prison uniform.

He nodded at his family members who were present in court as he entered the dock and had his handcuffs removed following a request by his defence counsel Philip Fong of Harry Elias Partnership.

While a large part of Monday's session that lasted some two hours centred around technical issues such as call log data and SIM cards from certain mobile phone numbers, Tuesday's session may turn out to be more interesting.

The prosecution said it would call Mr Swampillai as the fifth witness in the case. He is one of six individuals from the Swiss private bank who was referred by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to the public prosecutor to be evaluated for possible criminal offences, as announced by the regulator in May. Three, including Mr Swampillai, have not been charged.

He is also one of the key witnesses that Yeo had allegedly contacted in the days following Yeo's release from police bail in March this year "in the hope of suppressing incriminatory evidence pertaining to his own illicit schemes and activities", said Mr Tan in his opening statement.

Mr Tan applied for no photographs of the key witness (Mr Swampillai) and other relevant key witnesses to be published in the course of the trial for their "personal safety" and "peace of mind." The application was granted by presiding District Judge Ng Peng Hong.

The reasonably packed courtroom on Monday heard Singapore's probe into the money flows linked to 1MDB described by Mr Tan, who did not mention 1MDB directly, as the Commercial Affairs Department's (CAD) "most complex, sophisticated and largest" money laundering case by far.

Yeo was employed by BSI Singapore between December 2009 and July 2014 and according to Mr Tan had, during and after his employment with BSI, played a central role in facilitating and concealing the laundering of large sums of money. Under the four counts of intentionally perverting the course of justice allegedly committed sometime around March 2016, Yeo had allegedly:

- asked Samuel Goh Sze-Wei to falsely inform the police that the monies that Mr Goh had transferred to Bridgerock Investment Inc (a firm beneficially owned by Yeo) and GTB Investment Ltd were Mr Goh's investments;

- asked Kevin Swampillai, BSI's former head of wealth management services and Yeo's supervisor then, to falsely inform the police that the monies that were transferred by Mr Goh to Bridgerock Investment Inc and GTB Investment Ltd were Mr Goh's investments;

- told Pinto Jose Renato Carvalho to dispose of his laptop which likely contained evidence of Yeo's dealings with Amicorp Group and not to travel to Singapore to avoid being interviewed by the CAD;

- abetted Mr Carvalho by instigating him to tell Mun Enci Aloysius to inform the CAD (if he was to be questioned) that he did not know of Yeo's dealings with Amicorp Group.

The trial continues.

This article was first published on November 1, 2016.
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