Singapore charges ex-BSI banker with forgery in 1MDB-linked probe

Singapore charges ex-BSI banker with forgery in 1MDB-linked probe

SINGAPORE - Singapore charged a former wealth manager at Swiss private bank BSI on Thursday with forgery as part of a money laundering investigation related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The forgery charge is the seventh filed against Yeo Jiawei, a 33-year-old Singaporean, who is also facing accusations of money laundering and cheating.

Singapore authorities are conducting a wide-ranging money-laundering probe into bank accounts linked to 1MDB, whose activities have triggered investigations across three continents.

Yeo, who was handcuffed and appeared before the State Court via a video link, said there was no forgery.

While the charges didn't mention 1MDB by name, they stem from investigations into the fund's money flows, people familiar with the case have said.

The prosecutors charged Yeo with "fraudulently" signing a reference letter to the head of anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance of Citigroup Inc in Europe. The letter was written to help facilitate the transfer of US$11.95 million (S$16.3 million) from SRC International (Malaysia) Ltd, a British Virgin Islands-registered company, from its BSI account in Switzerland.

The money went to Affinity Equity International Partners Ltd, a company beneficially owned by Tan Kim Loong in an account at DBS Bank using Pacific Harbor Global Growth Fund AA4 as an intermediary, the prosecutors' affidavit said.

Yeo had been previously charged with cheating BSI by concealing from his former employer that he would be receiving US$1.6 million a year from Brazen Sky Ltd, a financial vehicle owned by 1MDB, which was holding fund units at an account with BSI Singapore.

CRITICAL STAGE

The new charge is significant as it opens up a new front in the investigations, the prosecutor's affidavit stated. It showed the investigations have reached a critical stage, it said.

The Malaysian government was named as the beneficial owner of SRC International (Malaysia) Ltd, according to investigation documents released by the prosecutors.

But it was unclear whether the BVI-registered company was linked to the similarly-named SRC International, which is owned by Malaysia's finance ministry and has been the subject of investigations by Malaysia's anti-graft agency for transferring money into the bank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib founded 1MDB 2009 and until recently was chairman of its advisory board. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

In January, Malaysia's Attorney General cleared Najib of any criminal offences or corruption in the case and dropped a probe into the fund.

But Switzerland's chief prosecutor said a criminal investigation into 1MDB had revealed that about US$4 billion appeared to have gone astray. A Malaysian parliamentary investigation also found that US$4 billion could not be properly accounted for, but stopped short of implicating the prime minister.

MOST COMPLEX INVESTIGATION

Yeo has been in custody since the middle of April. The Singapore court extended his remand for another week over the objections of Yeo's lawyer.

Singapore prosecutor, Kwek Mean Luck, earlier this month described this as the most complex cross-border investigation that the white-collar crime police has ever been involved in.

It involves several jurisdictions, numerous corporate entities, multiple transactions spanning several years and a staggering amount of money, court documents showed.

Malaysia said in March 2015 that 1MDB had transferred US$1.1 billion from the Cayman Islands into BSI Singapore.

Singapore authorities have charged two people so far including Yeo and another individual, whose background has not been revealed.

BSI has declined to comment on Singapore's money laundering probe into its former bankers.

BSI has been put up for sale by its owner, investment bank BTG Pactual, which is rushing to sell assets to raise cash and shore up investor confidence following the arrest of its founder Andre Esteves in November.

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