S’pore banker jailed over 1MDB

The Wolf of Wall Street was partly funded by 1MDB. Source: Vimeo

A Singaporean banker has been jailed for 30 months for his role in moving money from the scandal-hit Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB.

Yeo Jiawei, 33, who at the time was working at the Swiss bank BSI which has since had its operations in Singapore closed down.

Yeo was found guilty on four counts of obstructing the course of justice.

The judge, while delivering the verdict, said that he found Yeo “unreliable and not credible”.

During a trial that began in October, the banker was accused of pressurising colleagues not to disclose that Malaysian client Low Taek Jho was moving hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB accounts.

Investigators in at least five countries are probing the finances of 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Two other BSI employees had earlier admitted failing to disclose suspicious transactions made by Low.

Yeo still faces another seven other charges, including money laundering and forgery.

In July Singapore’s authorities said they had seized more than US$175 million in 1MDB-linked assets and found several banks had showed “weaknesses in the processes for accepting clients and monitoring transactions”.

When it closed BSI’s Singapore branch, regulators said it had shown “the worst case of control lapses and gross misconduct that we have seen in the Singapore financial sector”.

Standard Chartered and UBS, DBS and Falcon Bank were all found to have “lapses and weaknesses in anti-money laundering controls”.

1MDB was set up by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009.

It said it aimed to stimulate Malaysia’s economy through investment and infrastructure deals with foreign investors, including funds from Saudi Arabia.

By 2014 it had debts of US$11 billion and missed repayments.

The US Department of Justice claims that US$3.5 billion of 1MDB money was stolen and laundered through accounts in Singapore, Switzerland and the US.

US prosecutors allege that it funded luxury spending, mentioning a figure later confirmed to be Najib.

The premier’s account allegedly received US$731 million, although US$620 million was later returned.

Also named by the US probe were Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, Malaysian Eric Tan, a United Arab Emirates public figure and a US citizen.

Hotels, luxury homes, a private jet, yachting trips, art and gambling trips, including one with Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, were mentioned. 1MDB funds helped finance his hit film The Wolf of Wall Street, prosecutors allege.

The Malaysian government denies the allegations and Najib was officially cleared of criminality by the Malaysian attorney general at the beginning of 2016, after handpicking a new attorney general.