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.

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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