Ex-BSI Bankers Charged in Singapore Linked to Partying Financier

  • Yak, Seah face seven charges each from Singapore authorities
  • Charges include failure to disclose suspicious transactions

Singapore authorities charged two ex-BSI SA bank employees in a case linked to an embattled Malaysian investment fund at the center of international probes, accusing them of failing to disclose suspicious transactions involving a high-living financier.

Yak Yew Chee, a former private banker for 1Malaysia Development Bhd. and financier Low Taek Jho, faces seven charges including for forgery, according to court papers filed on Monday. Yak’s former subordinate Yvonne Seah Yew Foong was also charged in the same Singapore state court. The two, who didn’t enter any pleas, were allowed bail of S$35,000 ($25,500) each.

The latest charges come as Singapore vowed stronger action after the central bank found anti-money laundering lapses at banks linked to the troubled Malaysian fund known as 1MDB. The city state said in May it would fine BSI and revoke its license. Swiss prosecutors and U.S. authorities are also digging into how billions of dollars may have been diverted from 1MDB, which was intended to fund development projects across Malaysia.

1MDB has consistently denied wrongdoing and Malaysia’s government has said it will cooperate with lawful investigations of local companies or its citizens in relation to the fund. Apart from Yak and Seah, Singapore has criminally charged two other men, including former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, for their roles in transactions and money flows linked to 1MDB.

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Yak, 57, was charged with forging reference letters and failing to disclose suspicious transactions involving Jho Low, which came to Yak’s attention in the course of his employment with BSI, according to the court papers. Seah, 45, was charged with intentionally aiding Yak with forging reference letters, and for failing to disclose the suspicious transactions.

The two were among six members of BSI Bank’s senior management and staff that the central bank said in May it had referred to the public prosecutor to evaluate whether they had committed criminal offences.

Yak was a private banker to Jho Low, 1MDB and related entities, his lawyer Lee Teck Leng said after the hearing on Monday. Seah’s lawyer Peter Low said he would need to take his client’s instructions on the charges against her. Two calls to Jho Low’s Jynwel Capital in Hong Kong weren’t answered. 1MDB didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on its relationship to Yak.

Jho Low, known for partying with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, directed funds from 1MDB to connected individuals and for his and his associates’ “personal gratification,” U.S. prosecutors say. He bought art and real estate and paid for lavish parties and gambling, they said. He had previously described his role with 1MDB as informal consulting that didn’t break any laws.

Yak, a former senior vice president at BSI, had said in a declaration to BSI in 2015 that he didn’t get any unlawful benefits from managing 1MDB accounts. Yak had a monthly pay of about S$82,000 before he left the bank in February.

The charges against Yak and Seah are:
* That Yak and Seah had reasonable grounds to suspect around Nov. 20, 2012 that $153 million transferred from Good Star Ltd. to Abu Dhabi-Kuwait-Malaysia Investment Corp. may have been proceeds of criminal conduct, which they failed to disclose to authorities.
* A similar charge involving the sum of $153 million transferred from Abu Dhabi-Kuwait-Malaysia Investment Corp. to Low Hock Peng, Jho Low’s father.
* A similar charge involving the sum of $150 million transferred from Low Hock Peng to Jho Low.
* A similar charge involving the sum of $110 million transferred from Jho Low to Selune Ltd.
* That Yak forged and Seah aided him in forging reference letters to BNP Paribas and Kendris Ltd.
* That Yak forged a reference letter to Rothschild Trust AG.
* That Seah aided Yeo Jiawei in forging a reference letter to Citibank.

The next court hearing is set for Nov. 24. The cases are Public Prosecutor v Yak Yew Chee and Public Prosecutor v Yvonne Seah.

— With assistance by Niluksi Koswanage, and Shamim Adam

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