Singapore starts trial of ex-banker linked to 1MDB Fund

SINGAPORE – A private banker charged with money laundering and other offences in connection with the indebted Malaysian state fund 1MDB went on trial in Singapore on Monday.

Yeo Jiawei, a former wealth planner at Swiss private bank BSI, is facing 11 charges for allegedly obstructing the course of justice, money laundering, cheating and forgery.

Singapore ordered BSI to close its operations in the city in May due to violations of anti-money laundering requirements, among other problems.

Investigators in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the U.S. have been probing allegations that people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stole more than $1 billion from 1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

In February, Singapore authorities said they had “seized a large number of bank accounts” in connection with the probe, which began in mid-2015.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng described Yeo, 33 as “one of the main Singapore-based suspects in this massive money laundering case.” He said Yeo allegedly pocketed $26 million Singapore dollars ($18.7 million) in the process.

Tan said the 1MDB investigation was “by far the most complex, sophisticated and largest money laundering case” handled by Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department, which polices white-collar crime.

Yeo was arrested on March 17 and released on bail the next day. He was detained again and has remained in pre-trial detention after he allegedly asked three key witnesses to lie to the authorities, dispose of a laptop and avoid travelling to Singapore, according to charge sheets seen by the AP.

For allegedly obstructing, preventing or perverting the course of justice, he faces a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and possible fines for each charge.