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Ex-BSI banker in 1MDB-linked trial worked for Jho Low: Key witness

Ex-BSI banker in 1MDB-linked trial worked for Jho Low: Key witness

By Vanessa Paige Chelvan

SINGAPORE: Former private banker Yeo Jiawei quit his job at Swiss bank BSI to work for Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho, who is accused of siphoning billions from Malaysia's scandal-hit state fund 1MDB, it emerged in court on Tuesday (Nov 1).

Prosecutors allege it was this relationship with Mr Low, better known as Jho Low, that prompted Yeo to tamper with key witnesses in Singapore’s probe into illicit transactions linked to 1MDB.

Yeo, 33, is on trial over four charges for perverting the course of justice by allegedly urging witnesseses to lie to police and destroy evidence.

Mr Kevin Michael Swampillai, Yeo’s former boss at BSI, testified for the prosecution on Tuesday.

Mr Swampillai, who admitted he was involved in illicit transactions beside Yeo, praised him for being “very, very good at his job” and said they shared a “pretty close, quite strong” working relationship “based on mutual respect”.

Mr Swampillai – who has been suspended from BSI and is now unemployed – sang Yeo’s praises even as he gave details of how the pair made millions in “secret profits” at the expense of their employer.

It was Yeo who came up with the idea, he said.

Mr Swampillai also shed light on Yeo’s relationship with Jho Low. At BSI, Yeo worked closely with Yak Yew Chee, a former private banker for 1MDB and Mr Low.

Yeo “spent a considerable amount of his time with (Yak), by virtue of (Yak’s) client”, Mr Swampillai said.

Shortly before Yeo left BSI bank in mid-2014, he told Mr Swampillai that Mr Low had offered him a job. “He asked my opinion as to whether he should (take it),” Mr Swampillai said.

“I would say he left for what he thought was a better opportunity. The fact that (Yeo) was going to work with Low, who…had some kind of quasi-celebrity status…(and was closing) big investment deals around the world. To the casual observer…he had a certain appeal for anyone who might actually end up working for him, because he would then be exposed to that kind of lifestyle and experience that Low was associated with.”

When the MAS and CAD launched a money laundering investigation in 2015 and he was picked up for questioning, Yeo became paranoid.

Yeo and Mr Swampillai, who was also questioned by the authorities, tried to keep their illicit transactions under wraps. They communicating using pre-paid SIM – which were not registered under their names – or via Telegram, which has an auto-delete function so their text messages could not be traced.

Yeo also told Mr Swampillai to destroy evidence.

The trial continues.

- CNA/dl


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