Ex-BSI banker Yeo Jiawei told witness Pinto to ‘remain cool’ as it was ‘war time within Malaysia’

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The Edge

SINGAPORE (Nov 9): Ex-BSI wealth planner Yeo Jiawei was privy to information swirling about Malaysia’s top officials because he was receiving news directly from Jho Low, said key prosecution witness Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto in court on Wednesday.

Pinto said Yeo had told him to keep calm days before former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked.

“Remain cool now,” Yeo allegedly wrote to Pinto on July 22 last year. “My understanding is it’s war time within Malaysia, and other countries are waiting to see how it turns out before they move.”

According to evidence presented in court on Wednesday morning, Yeo added: “Meanwhile, we shouldn’t conclude anything until the final judgement.”

On July 28, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak sacked Muhyiddin. The former DPM is the highest political casualty to date in the 1MDB affair.

According to Pinto, Yeo was privy to such information because he was with the team which structured the investments done by 1MDB and SRC, which were by then under heavy scrutiny.

 When probed further by Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke Yue who asked how Yeo would know this information, Pinto said it was because Yeo was getting all the information directly from Low.

Pinto added that he is certain of this because, at the same time, Yeo was asking him for documents on behalf of Low.

In his cross examination, Yeo’s lawyer Philip Fong asked Pinto if his views of the situation in Malaysian then were from what he had heard and read from the news and social media. Fong put forward that this was what caused Pinto to be worried and anxious.

Pinto firmly disagreed. He recalls that he was communicating with Yeo, who was then with Low in Taiwan searching for real estate investment opportunities.

Yeo, who will turn 34 on Nov 21, is on trial for four charges of tampering with witnesses. He will face another seven charges of money laundering in April. After he left BSI, Yeo went to work for Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low. The Malaysian financier has been named as the mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal.

“Not so important Low”

The court also heard from two new witnesses on Wednesday. The first was another relationship manager at Amicorp, Aloysius Mun Enci, who used to report to Pinto. Mun and Pinto had worked on Yeo’s account.

However, unlike Pinto, Mun had limited face-to-face contact with Yeo. Instructions such as making wire transfers and loans were often relayed to him via Pinto. “The instructions were not complex but it is the structures’ that are complex,” Mun told the court.

The court also heard how Yeo took pains to cover his tracks even when working for Low. For example, Yeo gave strict instructions to Amicorp’s Pinto and Mun to blind carbon copy him when they communicated with the clients, such as Low, his family, and Eric Tan Kim Loong.

Mun recalls an occasion when he forgot to do so, and his boss Pinto “got an earful” from Yeo. “I felt quite bad,” Mun said.

Mun also recalls an occasion when Yeo countermanded an instruction to pay money out of an account belonging to Low Taek Szen, otherwise known as Szen Low, who is the younger brother of Jho Low.

Mun said that initially he didn’t know that Low had a brother and that the younger Low also had accounts with Amicorp. Mun said Yeo had told him: “There are two Lows; there is the important Low, there is the not so important Low.”

Mun also recalls a business trip he took with Pinto to Hong Kong in April this year. The two were then on a ferry headed to Discovery Bay.

While on board, Pinto told Mun that Yeo had told him to “throw (Pinto’s) laptop into the sea”. Pinto’s laptop would have been a source of information and documents marking transactions made on Yeo’s instructions to Amicorp. “I thought it was rather amusing,” recalls Mun.

“Voice softened”

The Commercial Affairs Department’s Oh Yong Yang, the last of the nine prosecution witnesses, also took the stand on Wednesday.

Oh told the court that investigations on Yeo had started last October. This was part of a complex investigation involving “hundreds of thousands” of transactions, at least ten individuals, and sums of money in the “billions of dollars”, according to Oh.

Between then and April this year, Oh had interviewed Yeo numerous times. Yeo was able to maintain his composure and confidence throughout.

That changed in April this year when Oh interviewed Yeo again.

By then, Yeo’s former boss at BSI, Kevin Swampillai, and Yeo’s own friend, Samuel Goh, whom he had brought in to help act as an intermediary for the fund flows, had already told the CAD about their meeting at the Swiss Club on March 27.

Oh confronted Yeo with this information. And Yeo knew the game was up.

“His voice softened, and he looked away,” Oh recounted. He recalls that Yeo then said: “We agreed not to say about that meeting.”

This evidence also gave authorities a reason to hold Yeo in remand since April.

The court had heard earlier in the trial that Yeo told Swampillai and Goh when the trio met up that they needed to “hold hands”.

Yeo allegedly concocted a story that the fund flows from Bridge Global Managers was investment money belonging to Goh that was to go into real estate in Indonesia, and various other stocks and shares.

That money ultimately ended up in entities owned by Yeo and Swampillai.

According to separate testimonies by Swampillai and Goh, they both felt that this “investment story” would not hold water. They said they decided to tell the CAD the truth: that the funds were “secret profits” made by Yeo and Swampillai instead.

This, the court heard, was in direct contravention against conditions of the Yeo’s bail.

Yeo was arrested on March 16 and released on March 18. Among other terms, Yeo was not allowed to communicate with other individuals related to the investigation. The March 27 meeting at the Swiss Club was held anyway.

The trial resumes on Thursday with Oh continuing to take the stand.

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