Singapore's 1MDB probe appears centred on its Cayman investments

Singapore's 1MDB probe appears centred on its Cayman investments

SINGAPORE authorities are probing "complex and layered transactions" with "cross-border elements" involving many shell companies in their investigations into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), according to prosecutors here.

This was revealed by Singapore's chief prosecutor Tan Ken Hwee at the third mention in the state court in the case involving Kelvin Ang Wee Keng, who was charged with corrupt transactions in an ongoing probe into 1MDB.

While the court submission again made no mention of 1MDB, it is widely accepted the case involves the probe into the money trail of Malay- sia's troubled state-backed firm.

"Unravelling, unpacking, and comprehensively analysing all the transactions has taken and will continue to take a significant amount of time," said Mr Tan in his submission for Ang to be remanded for another week.

Ang, 34, was charged on April 20 for corruptly giving a gratification sum of S$3,000 some time between 2013 and 2014 to research analyst Lee Chee Waiy to expedite preparation of a favourable valuation report to be issued by his equity research firm. It was reported that Lee had held the position of associate director at NRA Capital between August 2008 and October 2015. He is currently research head at Phillip Securities.

The Business Times reported last month (based on Hansard transcripts of Malaysia's Public Accounts Committee's sessions on 1MDB that NRA - a Singapore boutique finance house - was roped in to value 1MDB's controversial US$2.318 billion (S$3.14 billion) investments in Cayman Islands-registered funds that were managed by Hong Kong's Bridge Partners.

Ang, who appeared in court via video link, is believed to be employed in the finance sector. He also dealt extensively for over two years with another accused in the 1MDB case, ex-private banker of BSI Singapore Yeo Jiawei (who is deemed a "central figure in the investigations") and "some others implicated in improper dealings", according to Mr Tan.

"Progress has been made in the investigations regarding the accused's role in the various matters being scrutinised. There are still, however, some remaining investigations that require a further period of remand," Mr Tan submitted, adding that this would be the last request for remand for the purpose of the investigations.

"CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) officers have been working on this and related matters round the clock and we expect to finalise the position in relation to this accused within the next six days," he added.

Ang's lawyer Hamidul Haq of Rajah & Tann argued that his client has been held in custody for 16 days, hence "enough is enough". "My client is certainly not the subject of the main investigations by CAD ... he is peripheral ... lower down in the organisational chart of whatever they are looking at," claimed Mr Hamidul, adding that Ang could continue to be questioned by CAD even if he were released.

District Judge Christopher Goh granted prosecution's application to further remand Ang for one week with reasonable access to legal counsel.

The two persons charged in Singapore thus far - the first in many months of a massive probe into 1MDB involving authorities in multiple territories - could signal that investigators here may be, among others, zooming into activities in relation to 1MDB's much-criticised Cayman investments.

One of three charges laid against Yeo involves a claim that he cheated BSI Singapore in 2012 by concealing that he would receive some US$1.6 million per year. This sum, according to the charge sheet, was a portion of the annual management fee paid by 1MDB's wholly owned Brazen Sky Ltd to Bridge Partners Investment Management (Cayman) Ltd.

Yeo is also charged with attempt to intentionally pervert the course of justice on March 27, 2016 by asking Samuel Goh Sze-Wei to falsely inform the police that the monies Goh transferred to Bridgerock Investment Inc (an entity beneficially owned by Yeo) were Goh's investments. It was reported that Singaporean businessman Goh was a director of Bridge Capital Absolute Return Fund SPC, the Cayman Islands-registered funds that 1MDB had invested in back in 2012 that were managed by Bridge Partners.

1MDB's Cayman investments were an outcome of complex transactions of Islamic notes issuance and asset flipping which began with a US$1 billion cash investment by the state entity in a shortlived joint venture with PetroSaudi International.

According to Malaysia's PAC report which was released last month, key aspects of this investment were pushed ahead by 1MDB's top management without the board's approval and funds were paid to firms whose ownership could not be verified.

1MDB has said that a portion or 60 per cent of those funds were redeemed, much of which was used to pay British Virgin Islands-registered firm Aabar BVI - which is now the subject of a huge dispute between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) as IPIC contends that Aabar BVI is not a related entity and that it didn't receive the monies - while the remaining is being kept in BSI Singapore in the form of "units".

The next mention of Yeo's case is set for Thursday at the state court.

anitag@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 5, 2016.
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