Ex-BSI banker Yeo Jiawei’s lawyers yesterday turned the tables on Yeo’s former supervisor Kevin Michael Swampillai, saying the accusations the latter had levelled a day earlier were untrue and a bid to get himself off the hook.
Mr Swampillai, a prosecution witness, had laid the blame on Yeo, 33, for coming up with ways to counter the Commercial Affairs Department’s (CAD) investigations into a major international money-laundering case that has been linked to scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
But Yeo’s lawyer Philip Fong sought to tear apart Mr Swampillai’s testimony during cross-examination yesterday, saying “Your motive is that you hope by doing this, you can avoid prosecution”.
Mr Fong added: “You have admitted to receiving secret commission … you have lied or tried to lie to the CAD (about) the investment monies. And despite the fact that you tried to lie to the CAD, you have not been charged today.”
The remarks prompted Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng to question whether Mr Fong was “casting aspersions” on the prosecution.
Yeo is standing trial for interfering with witnesses central to the money-laundering investigations.
He also faces other charges of cheating, forgery and money laundering, which will be dealt with in April next year.
Yeo and Mr Swampillai are said to have pocketed commissions on the sly for transactions involving BSI when they were working there.
Mr Swampillai had charged that Yeo, his subordinate at the Swiss private bank, was the mastermind behind the plot to siphon money from transactions into two companies they owned — Bridgerock Investment and GTB Investment.
He also gave evidence on the lengths that Yeo went to conceal their interactions after investigations started, ranging from the use of spare phones to the changing of cars ahead of their meeting.
Both men were interviewed by the CAD last October, and Mr Swampillai was later identified by the Monetary Authority of Singapore as one of six senior BSI staff possibly running afoul of the law.
Mr Swampillai said earlier that in order to fend off the white-collar cops’ questioning, Yeo told him and a business associate named Samuel Goh to stick to a cover story that the commission was in fact investment monies from Mr Goh.
But Mr Fong argued that the instigator of this tale and other secretive measures to get the authorities off their backs was Mr Swampillai, and not his client.
He painted Mr Swampillai as a “paranoid and anxious” man, hounding Yeo for updates on investigations and meet-ups to “get the story in order” ahead of more questions from the authorities.
Mr Fong also denied that his client had ever told Mr Swampillai that he had left the bank in mid-2014 to work under flamboyant Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho.
He asked if Mr Swampillai knew that Yeo’s departure plans included an offer from another bank, and a potential offer from BSI Bank to re-engage him as a consultant.
Mr Swampillai said yes, but fired back: “When Yeo told me about the intention to leave the bank to work for Mr Low, I did ask Yeo how much he would be paid … I seem to remember a figure of S$500,000 a year — more than what he would have earned at BSI Bank.”
The trial continues, with Mr Goh expected to take the stand today.