2 people, not one, charged in Singapore 1MDB probe

Singapore - Singapore authorities have charged not one but two people - a former wealth manager at Swiss private bank BSI and someone allegedly involved in corrupt transactions in concert with the former private banker - in an ongoing investigation into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that was described in court as the "most complex" probe ever undertaken by the white-collar crime buster here.

Yeo Jiawei, a former BSI Singapore employee (who appeared via video link, handcuffed and clad in a bright orange polo shirt) was slapped with two additional charges of cheating and obstructing investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) by Singapore's prosecutors in the state court on Thursday.

The submissions in court made no mention of 1MDB but, based on the entity that was named (1MDB's wholly owned Brazen Sky Ltd emerged in relation to Yeo's fresh charges), it was apparent that the case stemmed from the ongoing probe into Malaysia's troubled state-backed firm.

On April 15, 33-year-old Yeo - who was described by Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck in Thursday's mention as having played a "central role" in the movement of large amounts of monies and concealing transactions - was charged with money-laundering offences.

Unknown to many, another Singaporean - Kelvin Ang Wee Keng, 34 - was charged on April 20 for corruptly giving a gratification sum of S$3,000 to research analyst Lee Chee Waiy to expedite preparation of a favourable valuation report to be issued by his equity research firm, according to a charge sheet.

This case is also believed to be an outcome of the 1MDB probe.

The case that rocked Malaysia: 1MDB

  • Every time 1MDB borrowed money, large amounts of the cash were quickly misappropriated, according to investigators. The money followed a circuitous path, and roughly US$1 billion landed in the private bank accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
  • Transaction 1: The Saudi Arabian oil venture money

    1MDB borrowed about US$1.8 billion for a joint venture with Saudi oil company PetroSaudi International. About US$1 billion of the cash went to a Seychelles company called Good Star Ltd. A co-founder of PetroSaudi, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, received US$24.5 million from Good Star before transferring US$20 million to Mr Najib via an intermediary.

  • Transaction 2: The power plant money

    Two bonds worth a total of US$3.5 billion were sold for 1MDB by Goldman Sachs to fund the purchase of power plants. 1MDB was supposed to pay money for a guarantee on the bonds to a unit of Abu Dhabi's IPIC called Aabar Investments PJS. Instead, the funds went to the similarly named Aabar Investments PJS Ltd.

  • Transaction 2: The power plant money

    From Aabar BVI, about US$637 million went to a company called Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners. Another US$463 million went from Aabar BVI to two mutual funds in the Caribbean island of Curaçao and then onto Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, which transferred a total of $170 million to Mr. Najib’s bank accounts.

  • Transaction 4: The Abu Dhabi real estate money

    Of the US$1.05 billion Mr. Najib received in his accounts, only US$80 million appears to clearly originate with Saudi Arabia. Another US$120 million came via an intermediary based in Saudi Arabia. At least US$20 million of that US$120 million has been traced clearly back to 1MDB by investigators. The remaining US$850 million came via Tanore Finance and Blackstone Asia.

  • Transaction 4: The four paths

    1MDB sold US$3 billion in bonds via Goldman Sachs to fund a real-estate joint venture with Abu Dhabi. 1MDB transferred US$1.27 billion ended up in a British Virgin Islands company called Tanore Finance Corp, which then transferred US$680 million to Mr. Najib’s accounts.

  • On July 20, 2016, US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than US$1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
  • Riza Aziz, stepson of PM Najib; Low Taek Jho, and Khadem Al Qubaisi, former Abu Dhabi managing director of sovereign wealth fund have been named in US Justice Department's lawsuits involving seizures of assets allegedly acquired with stolen 1MDB funds.
  • Riza Aziz, co-founder of Red Granite Pictures, was accused in US lawsuits of using US$100 million dollars that was diverted from Malaysian state development fund 1MDB in a money-laundering scheme, to finance the film.
  • US Department of Justice said Abu Dhabi tycoon Khadem al-Qubaisi, who helmed IPIC, used 1MDB funds to buy a New York penthouse and Beverly Hills properties.
  • UAE central bank reportedly told banks to freeze the assets of Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohammed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny (photo), the former chief executive of Aabar Investments PJS and provide information about their deposits and transactions.
  • Producer Riza Aziz (Lt) and cast members like Leonardo DiCaprio (next to him), at the UK premiere of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ in London. The movie was allegedly produced using stolen 1MDB funds.
  • A Beverly Hills home was bought by a shell company allegedly tied to Low Taek Jho.
  • Produced by Riza Aziz's Red Granite Pictures, The Wolf of Wall Street is expected to make another US100 million, according to industry analysts in the wake of the US lawsuits to seize assets acquired allegedly with stolen 1MDB funds.
  • Dumb And Dumber To was produced by Riza Aziz's Red Granite Pictures. US Department of Justice has named him in its lawsuits to seize assets acquired allegedly with stolen 1MDB funds.
  • Another movie produced by Riza Aziz's Red Granite Pictures is Daddy's Home.
  • Swiss authorities have seized artworks acquired allegedly with stolen 1MDB funds. They include Vincent Van Gogh's sketch La Maison de Vincent a Arles and Claude Monet's Nympheas avec Reflets de Haute Herbe (photo), which is worth US$57.5 million.
  • Swiss authorities seized Vincent Van Gogh's sketch La Maison de Vincent a Arles, which is worth US$5.5 million.
  • Also seized by Swiss authorities was Claude Monet's Sainte-Georges Majeur, which has an estimated worth of US$35 million.
  • PM Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansoor in a minor pilgrimage at Mecca in March 2016. Najib has repeatedly denied wrongdoing over 1MDB allegations. US Department of Justice did not name him in its lawsuits but mentioned the involvement of a "Malaysian Official 1'.
  • Dr Mahathir Mohamad (R), former Malaysia Prime Minister, called for PM Najib to step down after the US disclosure.
  • A photo of a Park Laurel apartment in New York city. US Department of Justice said among the properties allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds is a US$33.5 million condominium at the Park Laurel. The purchase was made by a shell company allegedly controlled by Mr Riza Aziz, the step-son of PM Najib.
  • TwentyOne Angullia Park in Orchard Boulevard, where Mr Low Taek Jho owns a penthouse bought for $42.91 million in 2013, and another unit bought for $11.53 million. Singapore authorities have prohibited any dealing in the units since February 2016.
  • In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that deposits into personal accounts of Malaysia's prime minister totaled more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) - hundreds of millions more than previously identified.
  • Tim Leissner, a Goldman Sachs partner who handled deals for 1MDB was suspended and later quit after bank investigators found he allegedly violated firm policies.
  • On Feb 5, private banker Yak Yew Chee withdrew his request to release money in his bank accounts, which had been frozen by Singapore authorities as part of their probe into 1MDB.
  • Yak Yew Chee, a senior private banker with Swiss bank BSI, was the first name to emerge from the Singapore probe into 1MDB, after it was reported that he was seeking access to his bank accounts which were frozen as part of the investigations.
  • In January, Malaysia's attorney-general said on in January that US$681 million (S$974 million) transferred into Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank account was a gift from the royal family in Saudi Arabia.
  • It was later reported that the payment was personally authorised to Prime Minister Najib Razak by Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah.
  • Malaysians, eager to see if bank details that were published in the report were Madam Rosmah's, have been transferring RM1 (36 Singapore cents) to her account, liberal news portal Malaysian Insider reported.
  • Nine documents detailing how almost US$700mil (S$943mil) in 1MDB funds allegedly ended up in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's (pic) personal bank accounts have been released by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
  • The documents showed alleged bank transfers from various companies to Najib's personal accounts on March 2013, December 2014 and February 2015.
  • However, some details such as the last five digits of the AmIslamic Bank Bhd account, said to belong to Najib, were redacted.
  • The development fund, which owns a large portfolio of power plants, has missed payments on the bridge loan that was due end-December and its lenders were keen to see it paid before they had to write it down in first-quarter earnings, bankers said.
  • Local media have reported that the final deadline was Feb 18.
  • Malaysia's indebted and controversy-ridden state investor 1MDB will be left as a skeletal structure and possibly dissolved under a debt repayment plan in which most of its assets will be sold, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
  • 1MDB, a property-to-energy fund whose advisory board is chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has built debt of nearly 42 billion ringgit ($11.73 billion) to build a portfolio of power plants
  • Malaysian billionaire Krishnan is preparing to settle a $550 million loan owed by troubled state fund 1MDB, four sources familiar with the matter said - a last-minute reprieve for the fund whose debt woes are pressuring the ringgit and the country's sovereign credit rating.
  • Arul Kanda, newly appointed president and group executive director of Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)
  • In his first week on the job, Kanda, the new head of loss-making Malaysian state investor 1MDB has had a ringside view of his future challenges.
  • A missed loan payment that spooked bond and currency markets...
  • And a possible delay in an ambitious asset sale he must pull off to cut a debt pile of nearly $12 billion.
  • Regarded as a cross between a sovereign wealth fund and a private investment vehicle, with Prime Minister Najib Razak chairing its advisory board, 1MDB is struggling under the burden of $11 billion in borrowed money.

When queried by BT, a spokesman from the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said that the prosecution had told the court that Ang was "implicated in a number of illicit transactions" entered in concert with Yeo.

The AGC spokesman said that the court had granted the prosecution's request during mention on Wednesday for Ang to be further remanded.

The case against these two people by Singapore prosecutors marks the first charges in many months of a sweeping probe into 1MDB that involves multiple authorities in several territories including Switzerland, the United States, Hong Kong and, more recently, Seychelles.

It also underscores the complexity of the probe into the 1MDB money trail.

Under the new charge, Yeo is alleged to have cheated his employer BSI Bank sometime before September 2012 by concealing that he would receive some US$1.6 million per year, which was a portion of the annual management fee paid by Brazen Sky Ltd to Bridge Partners Investment Management (Cayman) Ltd.

The court was told that Brazen Sky owned all the shares of Bridge Global Absolute Return Fund SPC (segregated portfolio company), a fund that was managed by Bridge Partners.

In his submission for Yeo to be further remanded and his access to counsel disallowed at this "sensitive juncture" of the investigations, Mr Kwek said that the probe was "very much alive" and involved "several jurisdictions, numerous corporate entities, multiple transactions spanning several years, and a staggering amount of monies". Multiple witnesses have also been interviewed.

"We have hundreds of thousands of documents to review that include communications between the accused and other persons of interest, as well as e-mails and transactional documents which the accused can also provide insight on," Mr Kwek argued, adding that Yeo's family members were also being investigated for money-laundering activities.

Yeo's lawyer, Philip Fong from Harry Elias Partnership, argued that the prosecution and CAD had been given "more than ample time" to investigate his client, hence there was no reason to hold him indefinitely.

"Two weeks have passed since Jiawei was arrested. Seven months have passed since he was called in for investigations. The enforcement authorities have had more than enough time to carry out their investigations," said Mr Fong.

He also stressed that Yeo was not a flight risk as he has a family and a three-year old daughter, and his passport has been impounded since Day One.

District Judge Christopher Goh granted prosecution's application to further remand Yeo and deny him access to lawyers.


This article was first published on April 29, 2016.
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