SINGAPORE (Dec 21): Former BSI bank wealth planner Yeo Jiawei has been found guilty of hindering investigations into 1MDB-related fund flows by tampering with witnesses.

Yeo, 34, will be sentenced on Thursday (Dec 22).

In delivering his verdict, District Judge Ng Peng Hong said he found Yeo “an unreliable and not credible witness, and failed to show any reasonable doubt in the prosecutor’s case.”

The maximum punishment is jail term of seven years for each count of witness tampering. In this case, the sentence might half of that as Yeo had merely “attempted” to do so.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng on Wednesday urged for a sentence “beyond the norm” to reflect the seriousness of the case.

During the course of the 12-day trial, Yeo was shown to have been a close associate of Low Taek Jho, the alleged 1MDB mastermind.

In the 15 months after he left BSI to work for Low, Yeo amassed assets of some $23.9 million.

The whereabouts of Low, described by the Commercial Affairs Department as a “person of interest”, is unknown.

Two of Yeo’s former colleagues at BSI  Low’s private banker Yak Yew Chee, and Yvonne Seah, Yak’s subordinate for the past 17 years  had earlier pleaded guilty for their roles in dealing with Low.

The convictions of Yeo, Yak and Seah are part of a broader move by regulators across at least four jurisdictions, including Switzerland and the US, to go after the fund flows of entities linked to 1MDB.

Some estimates have put the amount of money siphoned off at more than US$3 billion.

Even with this conviction, the prosecutors are not done with Yeo. He has been described as a key figure within a complex, illegal web of cross-border financial transactions.

Yeo, who has been in remand since August, is scheduled to face another seven counts of money laundering in April 2017.

DPP Tan on Wednesday said Yeo could face more new charges on top of these.

During the trial, Yeo was shown to have not only helped clients like Low shift money around, but had also siphoned some of the money, with the help of accomplices like Samuel Goh Sze Wei and Yeo’s ex-boss at BSI, Kevin Swampillai.

Taking the stand as witnesses, Swampillai and Goh both painted Yeo as a man who was shrewd with his numbers and ideas. Yeo was also the one taking the lead in their respective working relationships, they said.

Swampillai, 52, described how Yeo morphed from being a much younger subordinate to becoming an equal partner. They had plotted to set up their own business outside of the bank to profit from handling clients’ transactions.

Goh, meanwhile, told the court that he mainly took instructions from Yeo to sign fund transfer orders and other paperwork needed in their scheme. “I act as his nominee,” Goh said. "I acted on his instructions."

With investigators from CAD closing in, Yeo tried to concoct a story with the other two men, and told them to “hold hands” when asked by the investigators to explain the sources of funds and ownership of entities used.

“If we die, we die together,” Yeo had said.

Yeo had also asked Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto, a relationship manager with fund services provider Amicorp to destroy his laptop containing details of the dealings. Yeo had also asked Pinto to stay away from Singapore.

During the course of the trial, the court also heard how Yeo enjoyed an “upgrade” in his lifestyle after leaving BSI to work with Low. For example, Yeo had bragged about buying new watches, and flying around with Low to far flung locations like Las Vegas and Barbados for both business and leisure.

While Yeo was charged before Yak and Seah, the latter two had already pleaded guilty. On Nov 11, Yak, Low’s private banker, was the first. Yak’s deputy, Seah, followed suit on Dec 16.

Both Yak and Seah admitted to have failed to report suspicious transactions of their client Low, as required under regulations.

They also admitted to forging letters in BSI’s name. These letters, addressed to other banks, were to vouch for Low’s good standing and to ascertain that he has a net worth of US$1.63 billion.

Yak, who reportedly earned more than $27 million between 2011 and 2015, was put behind bars for 18 weeks and slapped with a fine $24,000. In addition, Yak volunteered to disgorge $7.5 million from what he earned as Low’s private banker to the state.

Seah, who earned $4.1 million in the same period, got two weeks jail and was fined $10,000.

Besides Yeo, Yak and Seah, three other former BSI executives have been referred to the prosecutors. They are the bank’s former local CEO Hans Peter Brunner, deputy CEO Raj Sriram, as well as Swampillai.

However, there has been no word yet on whether they will face charges.

The regulators have also acted on various financial institutions for their involvement with 1MDB.

On May 24, BSI’s Singapore branch was ordered shut by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Later in the year, Falcon Private Bank’s local office was similarly shut.

In addition, four other banks – DBS, UBS, Standard Chartered and Coutts – have been fined by the regulator for lapses in controls at amounts ranging from $1 million to $5.2 million.

Former Goldman Sachs executive Tim Leissner, who arranged bond issues on behalf of 1MDB, has been banned from working in the securities and capital markets of Singapore for 10 years.

On Dec 2, MAS managing director Ravi Menon said that investigations into 1MBD-related activities in Singapore are almost complete and a “final update” will be provided in early 2017.