Yeo Jiawei: Mere Middleman to Jho Low?

Yeo Jiawei, 1MDB, BSI, Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto, Jho Low

A lawyer for Yeo Jiawei sought to portray the former BSI private banker as a mere middleman for Jho Low and a former Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund executive at the heart of the 1MDB scandal.

The sixth day of prosecution witnesses in the trial of former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, who stands accused of obstruction of justice and money-laundering, saw spirited exchanges between witness Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto and Jiawei's defense lawyer, according to local media reports.

Yeo's lawyer, Philip Fong, sought to characterize the former private banker as a mere intermediary or messenger subject to the whims of Jho Low, who is suspected of laundering billions from the Malaysian state fund.

Pinto, an Amicorp banker who worked closely with Yeo including on 1MDB accounts, rejected this description, saying Yeo «wasn't just a DHL messenger».

«No Messenger»

«A messenger doesn't fly private jets,...or stay in (Emirates) Palace Hotel,» Pinto told the court, referring to a luxurious Abu Dhabi hotel which he claimed Yeo had bragged about staying at.

Pinto had previously told the court that Yeo boasted of traveling on Low's private jet and his luxury yacht Equanimity, and staying at one of the most luxurious hotels in Barbados, Sandy Lane.

Fong, the defense lawyer, maintained that the banker had no power of attorney for his client, and no authority to make autonomous decisions for him.

Jealous of Yeo?

This line of argumentation represents a feeble attempt to minimize damage: according to Singapore's money-laundering rules, Yeo had a legal obligation to report suspicious transactions to the regulator, which he neglected to do.

Pinto also told the court that Yeo had upgraded from a Rolex luxury watch to a more exclusive Audemars Piguet. The witness and Yeo's defense lawyer haggled over the value of the more expensive luxury watch.

The defense lawyer suggested that Pinto was jealous of Yeo, who the prosecution alleges accumulated more than $26 million by his early 30s from dealing with 1MDB.

The two argued over whether Yeo had indeed instructed Pinto to destroy evidence and mislead Singaporean investigators, which is the subject of the current trial. The former banker can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison if found guilty of those charges.

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