A Singapore court has jailed a former wealth manager of Swiss bank BSI for 4½ years for money laundering linked to the theft of billions of dollars from the troubled Malaysian sovereign fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
It has sparked money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including Switzerland and the US.
Singapore’s investigations into 1MDB have so far led to five convictions and with four jail sentences. Singapore is the only country so far to have criminally charged bankers.
Singapore public prosecutor Nathaniel Khng described the investigation as “the most-complex, sophisticated and largest money-laundering case” in the Lion City’s history.
Investigators are looking for US$6 billion that 1MDB supposedly raised for development projects but was used to pay for luxury real estate, art, lavish parties and gifts.
Former banker, Yeo Jiawei, 34, pleaded guilty to money laundering and cheating.
Yeo is serving a 30-month sentence for perverting the course of justice for urging witnesses to lie to police and destroy evidence about illicitly transferred funds linked to 1MDB.
“The two schemes to secretly profit were dishonestly concealed from BSI Singapore … and resulted in the accused earning in excess of US$3.5 million in illicit profits,” Khng said. He added that the central suspect was Low Taek Jho (pictured), a Malaysian businessman who was becoming increasingly reclusive.
Low has been characterised by US investigators as the ringleader of the scheme to drain billions from the fund.
Low was an adviser to 1MDB, whose advisory board was chaired by embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib denies committing any crimes involving 1MDB and said Malaysia would cooperate with the numerous probes.
Khng said the case against Yeo related to two transactions apparently trying to cover up that US$1 billion from 1MDB had been moved to Low’s “beneficially owned” account.
Low’s US public relations firm, Rasky Partners, announced: “Any attempts to link Mr. Low to the recent guilty pleas by parties allegedly making secret profits are based on unfounded assumptions.”
It added that Malaysian authorities had said there was “no evidence of any misappropriation of 1MDB funds”, the charges had not been proven elsewhere, and “this development in Singapore does not change that”.
“This is an example of overreach with a politically motivated and selectively chosen narrative alleging 1MDB as a ‘victim’,” the Boston-based group said. “The allegations are flawed, biased and create an inaccurate picture.”
Main suspect: Low Taek Jho. Picture credit: YouTube