A private banker at Grupo BTG Pactual SA’s Singapore unit had his bank accounts frozen and was questioned in a probe related to a debt-ridden Malaysian government investment fund, according to people familiar with the case.
Yak Yew Chee, employed by BSI Bank in Singapore, has filed a request to the Singapore High Court to access his funds, according to two people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
The senior private banker was a relationship manager for 1MDB Global Investments Ltd., a unit of 1Malaysia Development Bhd, as well as Aabar Investments, SRC International Sdn. and financier Low Taek Jho, according to one of the people.
In September, several of Yak’s accounts containing S$10 million ($7 million) were frozen as part of investigations surrounding 1MDB Global. He is applying for the release of funds for personal income taxes, legal fees and basic expenses, the person said. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Singapore’s central bank and white-collar police said Monday in response to queries on 1MDB that authorities had seized “a large number” of bank accounts in connection with possible money-laundering in the country. 1MDB, whose advisory board is headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been the subject of overlapping investigations at home and in countries including Switzerland and Hong Kong amid allegations of financial irregularities.
BSI spokesman Luciano Crobu said the bank’s policy is to not comment on such queries. Yak’s lawyer didn’t respond to messages requesting comment. Low, who has been linked to 1MDB, didn’t return calls at his Hong Kong company Jynwel Capital.
1MDB declined to comment on the matter. Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments, which signed an agreement to form a joint venture with 1MDB in 2013, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore and Commercial Affairs Department said they have sought and continue to seek information from several financial institutions, and are interviewing various individuals. Singapore is cooperating with authorities including those in Malaysia, Switzerland and the U.S., the agencies said in their statement on Monday.
1MDB said in a statement late Monday it remains committed to fully cooperating with any lawful authority and investigation.
Malaysia’s attorney general closed the door on a graft investigation into Najib last month, clearing the premier of wrongdoing over a “personal contribution” of $681 million from Saudi Arabia’s royal family, and funds from a company linked to 1MDB that appeared in his personal bank accounts before a general election in 2013.
Najib has maintained the funds were not used for private benefit, with $620 million later returned to the Saudi donors, although there hasn’t been a clear explanation as to what the rest was spent on or where that money is now. Both the premier and 1MDB have consistently denied any wrongdoing.