Friday 14 Jun 2024
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SINGAPORE (May 24): Yeo Jia Wei, the former wealth planner from BSI Bank linked to the widening investigations on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), has been slapped with two additional charges in court on May 24.

The 33-year-old, who has been in remand for 38 days, now faces a total of nine charges. The court is now reviewing if he will be granted bail, and will make its decision known on Thursday.

Both the eighth and ninth charge alleged that Yeo, via a vehicle owned by him called Bridgerock Investment Inc, cheated his former employer back in 2013.

Second solicitor general Kwek Mean Luck, in arguing that Yeo should not be granted bail, stressed that Yeo had tried tampering with witnesses. Specifically, on March 27 this year, Yeo met Goh Sze-Wei Samuel and Kevin Michael Swampillai, Yeo’s former manager at BSI, that the time had come to “collaborate” stories to provide a “consistent response” to Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) if questioned.

Harry Elias, founder of the law firm bearing his name, made a rare appearance in court today. He stood in for Philip Fong, who was Yeo’s lawyer. Fong was overseas and couldn’t make it in court today.

He described the 38 days in which Yeo has been in remand as “simply unacceptable”, and offered suggestions that Yeo be allowed bail at an amount ranging from $200,000 to $400,000. He also suggested that Yeo to report to the investigators daily and that he is not a flight risk.

“I’ve not much experience in criminal law, and not much experience in bailing,” says the 79-year-old who has been in practice since 1965. “This is quite possibly the single longest an accused person has been remanded.”

Elias questioned the purpose of such a lengthy period of remand. “It is only to satisfy themselves that they call the shots,” he said, referring to the investigators.

Furthermore, the defence team has only thus far met Yeo for just over an hour. Given the complexity of the case, Elias described that as akin to playing $1 million poker game with only 10 cents in the pocket. “That’s not fair to the system, the accused, the lawyers and the court.”

Elias also took issue with the way Yeo has been described by the prosecution — in tampering with witnesses — as “ever-rampaging”.

In response, Kwek said Elias has “overly dramatised” the risks that Yeo is posing if offered bail. He stressed that Yeo has shown no compunction in perverting justice, having contacted no less than five witnesses on various occasions.

For example, after Yak Yew Chee, the former BSI senior private banker was found to be involved earlier in February, Yeo sent Yak via Telegram, the encrypted messaging system, messages such as: “Why did you do such a stupid thing?”; “What have you gained. You have gained nothing but lose so much”; “Anyway they are very unhappy with you.”

“They”, according to Kwek, are believed to be referring to the BSI clients. “The above communications unmistakably show that the accused has no compunctions perverting the course of justice. He was attempting to influence key witnesses to investigations even before he was formally arrested by the authorities,” added Kwek.

Kwek also referred to an announcement by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on May 24 to shut down BSI here for “serious breaches of anti-money laundering requirements, poor management oversight of the bank’s operations, and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff.”

That includes Yeo, Yak, and four others: Hans Peter Brunner, the former CEO; Raj Sriram, the former Deputy CEO; Kevin Michael Swampillai, Head of Wealth Management Services and one of whom was named contacted by Yeo; and Seah Yew Foong Yvonne, former Senior Private Banker.

In addition, MAS is already underway in “conducting supervisory reviews of several other financial institutions and bank accounts through which suspicious and unusual transactions have taken place. MAS will not hesitate to take actions against these institutions if they are found to have breached regulations or fallen short of expectations,” the regulator added.

In its statement today, 1MDB “has not been contacted by any foreign lawful authority on matters relating to the company. 1MDB remains committed to fully cooperating” with them.

“The Prosecution is working with the CAD to review the facts presented by MAS. The facts indicate that the accused has played a central part in the activities that has led to the response of the MAS. His deplorable conduct and troubling attempts to tamper with witnesses indicate that releasing him on bail will jeopardise not only CAD’s on-going investigations but also the investigations into the other individuals named in the MAS media release,” said Kwek.

Kwek acknowledged that the investigations are complex. In seeking denial of bail, Kwek said that the prosecution is ready to ask for standalone proceedings, by getting trial on-going for only for certain charges, specifically on the 3rd and 5th charges of tampering with witnesses.

“This is a very serious breach in our financial sector. The reason why we are taking these unusual steps, simply because the accused has taken unusual steps,” he said.

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