BSI Banker Yak in Singapore 1MDB Probe Denies Wrongdoing

  • Several of Yak's bank accounts in Singapore were frozen
  • Yak said in court papers he didn't get any unlawful benefits

A Singapore private banker caught up in a probe related to a troubled Malaysian government fund has denied any wrongdoing.

Yak Yew Chee, who since 2009 has worked at BSI Bank, a unit of Grupo BTG Pactual SA, made the claim in court documents released Friday. Yak said he didn’t get any unlawful benefits from managing the accounts of 1Malaysia Development Bhd., Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJSC and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, according to a declaration he made to the bank on April 27, 2015 and reproduced in the court papers.

Yak, who wasn’t in court for Friday’s hearing, was seeking to transfer S$1.76 million ($1.25 million) from his overseas bank accounts to pay his taxes and legal fees as well as unfreeze his funds in Singapore.

Yak’s Singapore bank accounts with DBS Bank Ltd., Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., CIMB Bank Bhd. and Bank of China Ltd. were frozen in September as authorities investigated whether his bonus payments were the “benefits of criminal conduct,” according to the documents. Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng said Yak, 58, was free to transfer his overseas funds for the payments. Yak, a senior vice president at BSI, is paid a monthly salary of about S$82,000, according to court papers.

OCBC declined to comment. CIMB and Bank of China didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. DBS said in a statement that it was unable to comment on matters under investigation by the authorities, adding that the bank does not "have any accounts of 1MDB, nor have any of these widely-reported money flows related to 1MDB gone through DBS."

“From the documents, he does not appear to have done anything wrong, subject to further investigations,” Yak’s lawyer Roderick Martin said after the hearing.

Among the claims made in the documents are that Yak sent a “staggering” sum of S$5.7 million overseas between May and September last year, a period that saw him placed on leave while BSI conducted investigations into unspecified “certain matters.” The amount was bonus payments for his work at BSI, Yak said in court papers.

BSI’s lawyer Cavinder Bull said at the hearing that the bank was ready to assist the court in any way. 

Aabar didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment. Low couldn’t be reached at his Hong Kong office Jynwel Capital Ltd.

Singapore’s central bank and white-collar police said Monday in response to queries on 1MDB that authorities had seized “a large number” of bank accounts in connection with possible money-laundering in the country. 1MDB, whose advisory board is headed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been the subject of overlapping investigations at home and in countries including Switzerland and Hong Kong amid allegations of financial irregularities. Both the premier and 1MDB have consistently denied any wrongdoing. Najib was cleared of wrongdoing by Malaysia’s attorney general last month.

The case is Yak Yew Chee v Public Prosecutor, CM78/2015. Singapore High Court.

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