SINGAPORE: A Swiss banker was charged in Singapore on Thursday with money laundering and other offences related to an international corruption scandal involving neighbouring Malaysia’s state fund 1MDB.
Allegations that huge sums were misappropriated from the Malaysian state fund triggered a scandal which has embroiled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has so far weathered the resulting political storm.
Jens Fred Sturzenegger, 42, who headed the Singapore branch of Swiss lender Falcon Private Bank, was slapped with six charges for allegedly failing to report suspicious transactions totalling $1.7 billion in March 2013.
One transaction alone involved $1.265 billion.
Sturzenegger also faces 10 charges of giving false information to Singapore authorities in relation to their investigation into the use of the city-state’s banking system as a conduit for the transfer of illicit funds involving 1MDB.
His lawyer Tan Hee Joek told reporters that Sturzenegger is expected to plead guilty when he appears in court on January 11. He is currently free on bail.
Three Singaporean private bankers from Swiss lender BSI have already been jailed by a Singapore court in relation to the scandal.
BSI and Falcon Bank were kicked out of Singapore last year for what regulators called massive lapses in financial controls.
Singapore, a regional financial hub known for its transparency and strong stance against corruption, has launched the investigation into alleged unlawful fund flows linked to 1MDB.
Among the Singaporeans jailed last year was Yeo Jiawei, who was sentenced to 30 months for witness tampering and obstructing the 1MDB probe.
It was revealed during Yeo’s trial that he worked closely with Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, a family friend of Najib.
Najib founded the 1MDB fund while Low helped set it up and played a key role in its decisions.
Both men have strongly denied any wrongdoing.