Ex-BSI Banker Seah Gets Jail for Forgery Tied to 1MDB Case

  • Convicted of forgery offenses, not reporting suspicious acts
  • Seah’s former manager Yak serving time for similar offenses

Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, a former BSI SA private banker, became the second person to be convicted in Singapore’s investigation into alleged money laundering linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Judge Salina Ishak sentenced Seah, 45, to two weeks in jail for aiding in forging documents and imposed a fine of S$10,000 ($6,937) for failing to report suspicious transactions allegedly related to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho.

Levying a fine on the “well-heeled” like Seah isn’t a sufficient deterrent, prosecutor Nathaniel Khng said in seeking the prison term. Seah’s lawyer Peter Low had sought a fine instead.

Seah’s supervisor Yak Yew Chee is serving an 18-week jail term after being convicted in November for similar offenses. BSI was ordered in May to shut after authorities found serious anti-money laundering breaches. The Malaysian Low, also known as Jho Low, has been identified by Singapore authorities as a key person of interest in its 1MDB-linked probe and previously described his work with 1MDB as informal consulting work that didn’t break any laws.

Efforts to reach Low haven’t been successful. Both 1MDB and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who formerly chaired 1MDB’s advisory board, have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

To read a summary of BSI’s part in the 1MDB web, click here

Seah earned S$4.1 million including bonuses from 2010 to 2015 while at BSI, the court heard. The court will not allow errant bankers to harm Singapore’s reputation, and neither should bankers be compromised by the lure of big bonuses, the judge said.

Both Yak and Seah serviced the accounts of Low, 1MDB and related entities and were among six BSI employees referred to prosecutors by the central bank.

There was no evidence backing Seah’s claim that she found it “practically impossible” to disobey Yak’s instructions, prosecutor Khng said. Both Yak and Seah had worked together for 17 years including at Commerzbank AG, Coutts & Co. and BSI, he said.

The verdict for another former BSI banker, Yeo Jiawei, is scheduled to be delivered Dec. 21. Yeo was charged with obstructing justice by seeking to tamper with witnesses in the probe.

The case is Public Prosecutor v Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, Singapore State Courts.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.