Kevin Swampillai said he and his subordinate Yeo Jiawei had set up shell companies – Bridge Partners International Management (BPIM) and Bridge Global Managers (BGM) – to receive the “secret profits”.
The money was then channelled to companies they controlled, according to a report in The Straits Times.
In September 2012, 1MDB sold its shares in a venture for USD2.32 billion and received units in BPIM, the report said.
1MDB earlier said the units were owned by Brazen Sky and held through BSI in Singapore as custodian.
The “referral fees” arrangement, according to Swampillai, arose from a joint collaboration. It involved a portion of the management fees paid by Brazen Sky to BPIM going to firms controlled by Swampillai and Yeo.
He told the court that he devised the plan to make “big management fees” from setting up a fund company that would manage the proceeds from a deal with Brazen Sky.
“The idea may have come from me, but Yeo was (an) enthusiastic supporter of the idea and had participated actively with me in that discussion,” Swampillai said, according to the ST report.
Swampillai, then head of wealth management services, was later suspended by BSI and is now unemployed.
Swampillai said, according to the ST report, that it “was Yeo’s idea that there should be an intermediary company between our companies and Bridge Partners, which I fully supported” to afford an added layer of security.
He was testifying at the trial of Yeo on four charges of tampering with witnesses – including Swampillai, who is the fifth witness called by the prosecution. Yeo has been slapped with a total of 11 charges including money laundering, which will be heard in April next year.
In addition, Yeo allegedly gained USD18 million from his series of deals and transactions done involving 1MBD money.
The court also heard that Yeo, the former BSI wealth planner, was paid some SD500,000 a year by Low Taek Jho, otherwise known as Jho Low.
Swampillai said Yeo, whom he described as very competent in creating trusts and providing trust services, left the Swiss private bank in June 2014 to work for Low.
The testimony refuted claims by Yeo’s lawyer that his client did not get a job offer from Low.
He said Yeo called Low “boss”, adding that several individuals in BSI associated with Low used the same term or “big boss” in referring to the Malaysian financier.
Swampillai said Yeo was so paranoid about secrecy that he had urged him to get a “Bangla” phone so they could hold untraceable conversations.
“Bangla” phones are those that belong to construction workers who had left Singapore, and so would not be easily tracked, according to the ST report.
The pair also used encrypted texts on the online messaging service Telegram to avoid detection after investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department into their dealings with 1MDB intensified in October last year, ST reported.