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2 more ex-BSI bankers charged in 1MDB-linked probe

Yak Yew Chee (left) and Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, 45, each face seven charges - three for forgery and four for failing to alert the authorities to suspicious transactions between 2012 and 2014.


SINGAPORE is pressing on with its probe into Malaysia's 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), with prosecutors filing fresh charges against two former senior private bankers of BSI Singapore for forgery and failure to flag suspicious transactions.

The pair - Yak Yew Chee, 57, and Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, 45 - appeared in the State Court on Monday to face seven charges each; three were related to forgery and the remaining four, for failing to flag suspicious transactions between 2012 and 2014.

Their passports have been impounded. They are out on bail of S$35,000 each. No pleas were entered and the pre-trial conference (PTC) has been set for Nov 24.

Yak's lawyer Lee Teck Leng, asked about his client's plea, told reporters after the court session: "I am unable to comment at this stage. I need to study the charges and take Mr Yak's instructions first."

Seah's lawyer is Peter Cuthbert Low.

The pair are among the half a dozen individuals who the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) referred to the Public Prosecutor in May for an evaluation of whether criminal offences might have been committed. This was after an inspection into BSI Singapore led to it being stripped of its licence to operate in Singapore.

Another former BSI staff Yeo Jiawei, described by prosecutors as having played a key role in illicit financial transactions in and out of Singapore, was charged earlier and has been in custody since April. He faces 11 charges, ranging from those for money laundering to cheating, forgery and obstructing the course of justice.

Another individual Kelvin Ang, a former remisier at Maybank Kim Eng Securities, has also been charged for corruption in the same case.

The Attorney-General's Chambers said in a statement: "Investigations into 1MDB-related fund flows through Singapore are ongoing. Other individuals, including the other BSI Singapore employees named by MAS, are being questioned or investigated."

Yak and Seah are alleged to have failed to disclose four transactions involving illicit proceeds to a Suspicious Transaction Reporting Officer, although they had reasonable grounds for suspicion. These were for the alleged transfers of :

  • US$153 million from Good Star Limited to Abu Dhabi Kuwait-Malaysia Investment Corporation (ADKMIC);
  • That same sum from ADKMIC to Larry Low Hock Peng, the father of Penang-born tycoon Low Taek Jho or Jho Low;
  • US$150 million from Mr Larry Low to Mr Jho Low; and
  • US$110 million from Mr Jho Low to Selune Ltd.

Filings by the United States' Justice Department in its civil suit to seize US$1 billion in assets allegedly purchased with stolen funds from 1MDB indicate that Mr Low was the beneficial owner of Good Star, ADKMIC and had represented himself as the owner of Selune.

Singapore regulators have seized S$240 million worth of assets in the course of the 1MDB probe, half of which belong to Mr Jho Low. The tycoon's whereabouts have been the subject of intense speculation, especially since the US weighed in on the 1MDB fiasco in July with its civil action, and alleged that some US$3.5 billion had been misappropriated from the troubled strategic development company wholly owned by the Malaysian government. The US regulator named Mr Jho Low, among others, in its lawsuit.

Yak was also charged with forging reference letters, and Seah, with intentionally aiding Yak and Yeo with forging reference letters.

The latest charges by Singapore against Yak and Seah signal that the investigations, dubbed the most complex money laundering probe ever undertaken here, is every bit alive, although the first two cases involving Yeo and Ang have since retreated from the limelight into closed-door PTC sessions.

Yeo's trial has been set to run from Oct 31 to Nov 3, and from Nov 7 to 11; Ang's PTC has been fixed for Oct 20.

Yak's name first cropped up on the radar in Singapore's high-profile 1MDB case before any charges were filed, when he filed a criminal motion to release his frozen bank accounts of some S$10 million. Court documents then revealed that his monthly salary exceeded S$80,000, and that his salary and bonuses for the last four years had been an eye-popping S$27 million.

Eight months after he withdrew that motion, he and his former BSI colleague Seah appeared in court on Monday, bringing the tally so far to four the number of persons charged in Singapore in the protracted case.