Former BSI Wealth Planner Linked to 1MDB Had Surprising Job Offer

Yeo Jiawei, BSI, job offer, UBS, 1MDB, Jho Low, Singapore, Coutts

Yeo Jiawei (picture: court documents)

Former BSI wealth planner Yeo Jiawei has denied that he began working directly for alleged 1MDB financial kingpin Jho Low in 2014. Instead, he claims to have had an offer from a Swiss banking giant.

Yeo Jiawei worked for Coutts until 2009, when he moved to Banca della Svizzera Italiana, or BSI – one of dozens of staff who followed Hanspeter Brunner, the British bank's Asian private banking rainmaker, to the Swiss private bank in a mass defection.

Then in his late twenties, the wealth planner appeared to have a promising career before him, but just six years later found himself entangled in what prosecutors allege is a billion-dollar Malaysian corruption scheme.

Yeo, who is currently standing trial for witness tampering and money-laundering in connection with 1MDB, has defended himself against prosecutor's allegations by denying that he ever worked directly for Jho Low, who is thought by U.S. authorities to be the mastermind behind 1MDB's convoluted offshore money transfers.

Turned Down UBS

In court, Yeo claimed that he had been offered a position at UBS after leaving BSI two years ago – but turned it down and struck out on his own instead, according to a report in «The Edge» newspaper.. Two witnesses at Yeo's trial testified that he had gone to work directly for Low following his exit from BSI in 2014.

If Yeo's claim is true, it underscores the fierce fight for talent, and clients, in Asia. It would also imply a perilously close call for UBS, which itself was disciplined in Singapore over its 1MDB dealings. A spokesman for the Swiss bank said it doesn't comment on past personnel decisions.

Swiss banks in Singapore have wrought major damage to their reputations due to their dealings with 1MDB. BSI was shut down in Singapore in May, as was Falcon Private Bank last month. The remainder of BSI is being sold to Swiss rival EFG International. 

Earlier this month, Yeo's former BSI boss, Yak Yew Chee, pleaded guilty to charges including forgery and failing to flag suspicious 1MDB transactions to authorities, accepting a fine and an 18-week prison sentence.

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