Convicted on singles’ day

singapore-skyline

On what has been declared singles’ day, Yak Yew Chee, a former private banker from BSI SA, became the first individual to be convicted in Singapore in the probe into the alleged multi-billiondollar misappropriation surrounding Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). More commonly associated with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s alleged channelling of over RM 2.67billion from 1MDB to his personal bank accounts, the ongoing scandal involves global corruption and money laundering.

Yak faced seven charges for forging bank reference letters and failing to report suspicious banking activities involving financier Low Taek Jho, who the US prosecutors explicitly characterised as the controller of an illicit payments scheme which drained billions from 1MDB. The suspicious banking activities included transfers of sums in excess of hundred million dollars that Yak could reasonably suspect to have been proceeds of criminal conduct.

The forgery charges each carry a maximum jail term of up to four years and a fine, while each charge for failing to report a suspicious transaction is punishable by a fine of not more than S$20,000. Yak pleaded guilty and the judge convicted him of four charges. While the prosecution is not pursuing the other three charges separately, Deputy Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie agreed to consider the additional charges against Yak in sentencing. Yak was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment and fined S$24,000. He will also surrender S$7.5 million in salary and bonuses which had been frozen during investigations.

Although Yak is currently the only person to have been convicted of an offence, the other individuals remain on the hook. His conviction reinforces the clear and unyielding message that a strong compliance culture must be adopted in keeping Singapore a clean and trusted financial centre. Singapore’s central bank has, in the 1MDB investigation, since shut down Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore branch and fined DBS and UBS banks.

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