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In Singapore 1MDB-Linked Case, Ex-BSI Banker Yak Found Guilty

In Singapore 1MDB-Linked Case, Ex-BSI Banker Yak Found Guilty
The first person to be found guilty in a Singapore case linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd is Yak Yew Chee, a former BSI SA private banker. And in the global corruption and money laundering probes surrounding the Malaysian investment fund, he also became the first banker to be convicted.
Four charges, including forging documents and failing to disclose suspicious transactions allegedly related to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, were labeled against Yak and the judge convicted him of the charges after he pleaded guilty in a Singapore court on Friday. Seven charges were leveled against the former senior banker at BSI and consideration about the other three charges would be made while sentencing.
Low has been characterized by U.S. prosecutors as the controller of an illicit payments scheme draining billions from the Malaysian investment fund and has been named as a key person of interest by Singapore authorities. Informal consulting that didn’t break any laws was how the  high-living financier had previously described his role with 1MDB.
Efforts to reach Low haven’t been successful. A call by the media to Low’s Hong Kong-based company Jynwel Capital earlier Friday wasn’t answered. All wrongdoing have been denied consistently by both 1MDB and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who formerly chaired 1MDB’s advisory board.
For their roles in forging bank reference letters and not reporting suspicious banking activities allegedly involving Low, Bottom of Form
Yak, along with his former subordinate Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, were charged last month. His lawyer had said previously that the 57 years old Yak was also a banker for 1MDB and related entities. Currently on trial for obstructing justice by attempting to tamper with witnesses in the probe is another of Yak’s former colleagues, Yeo Jiawei.
The judge sentenced Yak to 18 weeks in jail and a S$24,000 fine.
"It is imperative that the public confidence in the integrity of Singapore’s banking and financial industry is zealously protected. Bank officers should be seeking to safeguard the public trust and confidence in the financial industry and not succumb to the greed and the lure of huge bonuses or the treachery of ‘important’ clients," Judge Jennifer Marie said in handing down the sentence.
Yak’s lawyer Lee Teck Leng said that in his dealings with Low, Yak took his cue from the top management at BSI and that he was remorseful. Lee said that Yak will agree to cooperate with prosecutors and will voluntarily disgorge S$7.5 million. For his long-time colleague Seah, who hasn’t pleaded on her charges, the convicted banker through his lawyer pleaded for leniency.
Yak "had no reasonable grounds to believe that Low was involved in criminal conduct," or that there was something amiss with the purported 1MDB investments, Lee said. "Low very frequently declined to provide further details or explanation on the ground that the deals were government to government and hence state secret."
For money laundering breaches related to moving funds associated with 1MDB, Singapore regulators have ordered BSI and Falcon Private Bank to stop operations.
The case is Public Prosecutor v Yak Yew Chee, Singapore State Courts.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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