Banker in 1MDB-linked Singapore case withdraws request to unfreeze accounts

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A banker at Swiss wealth manager BSI Singapore withdrew a request to the Singapore High Court on Friday to release his bank accounts, frozen by authorities here as part of an investigation into money laundering related to the embattled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund.

Roderick Edward Martin, a lawyer representing BSI private banker Yak Yew Chee, leaves the High Court after a hearing on a request by Yak to release money from his bank account which was frozen as part of Singapore's money laundering probe linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), in Singapore February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su

This is the first legal case arising after Singapore authorities announced the money laundering probe linked to 1MDB last July.

Yak Yew Chee, who sources said was chiefly responsible for managing accounts related to 1MDB in BSI Singapore, did not appear at Friday’s hearing.

His lawyer, Roderick Martin of Martin & Partners, withdrew his request after Singapore’s deputy chief prosecutor raised no objection to Yak’s plan to transfer $1.76 million ($1.26 million) to Singapore from overseas accounts to pay his tax and legal fees.

1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, is being investigated by authorities in Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States following accusations of financial mismanagement and graft. 1MDB has denied these allegations

Earlier this week, the city-state said it had seized a large number of bank accounts in recent months and is cooperating with authorities in Switzerland, Malaysia and United States on 1MDB.

Court documents released on Friday in Yak’s case showed Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department had seized S$9.7 million from 12 of Yak’s bank accounts in Singapore.

The documents showed that since 2012, Yak had transferred nearly S$8 million overseas, of which S$5.7 million was moved out of Singapore in 2015 before the accounts were seized in September.

“CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) has reason to suspect that the Applicant (Yak) has substantial funds parked overseas,” said Wan Abdul Rahman Bin Abdul Latiff, an officer at the CAD in an affidavit.

Yak argued the monies transferred out of Singapore represented only about 40 percent of his total income of S$20 million over the past seven years, according to the court documents.

Yak had declared he had not engaged in unlawful conduct in respect to the accounts at BSI, which included 1MDB-linked entities such Brazen Sky Ltd and Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, the documents said.

Low played a key role in setting up 1MDB in its early days as Terengganu Investment Authority.

The documents also showed Yak had to go on an unpaid leave during internal and external investigation during May to September last year.

Lawyers from Drew & Napier, which represents BSI, were present in the court as observers.

Reporting by Rujun Shen and Saeed Azhar. Editing by Bill Tarrant