NO MORE ‘PEACEFUL SLEEP’ FOR NAJIB: BOMBSHELL – SINGAPORE SHUTS DOWN FALCON BANK OVER 1MDB MONEY-LAUNDERING, BRANCH MANAGER ARRESTED
Singaporean and Swiss regulators slammed Falcon Private Bank for “serious” breaches of anti-money laundering regulations in relation to its role in moving $3.8 billion of funds associated with the troubled Malaysian fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it has ordered Falcon to cease its operations in the city and announced that the firm’s local branch manager had been arrested. Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority has started enforcement proceedings against two of Falcon’s former executives and threatened to withdraw its license if there were any further breaches of money-laundering regulations. Finma linked the private bank to $3.8 billion of 1MDB fund flows, according to a statement released Tuesday.
Falcon “has seriously breached money laundering regulations,” Finma said. The private bank failed “to carry out adequate background checks into transactions and business relationships associated with Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB which were booked in Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong.”
The two regulators fined Falcon a combined $5.6 million. In its own statement, Falcon said it and its shareholder Aabar Investments PJS welcomed the completion of the investigations, which “finally resolves the 1MDB topic for the Bank with the regulators.” Since 2013, the firm had further enhanced its compliance and taken additional measures “to prevent future issues,” it said.
Besides Singapore and Switzerland, U.S. authorities are also digging into how billions of dollars may have been improperly diverted from 1MDB, which was set up in 2009 to fund development projects across Malaysia. Singapore said in May it would revoke BSI SA’s local license and in July rebuked four banks — including Falcon — for lapses in anti-money laundering controls related to transactions tied to the Malaysian fund.
1MDB has consistently denied wrongdoing and Malaysia’s government has said it will cooperate with lawful investigations of local companies or its citizens in relation to the fund. Singapore has criminally charged four people, including three former BSI bankers for their roles in transactions and money flows linked to 1MDB.
The Swiss regulator said it had identified “serious shortcomings” in Falcon’s anti-money laundering activities and in risk management between 2012 and the summer of 2015. Assets amounting to about $3.8 billion associated with 1MDB were transferred to accounts at Falcon during that period and “generally moved on quickly.”
“The business relationships and transactions booked in Switzerland and at Falcon’s Singapore and Hong Kong branches were unusual and involved a high level of risk for the bank both through their nature and the amounts transacted,” Finma said. “Although management’s attention was drawn to these matters, it repeatedly failed to properly investigate the business relationships.”
The MAS fined Falcon S$4.3 million ($3.1 million) for 14 breaches of Singapore’s anti-money laundering rules, it said in its statement. Falcon’s local branch manager, Jens Sturzenegger, was arrested by the city-state’s Commercial Affairs Department on Oct. 5, MAS said.
The Singaporean regulator, which had vowed stronger action on anti-money laundering lapses earlier this year, also imposed penalties on UBS Group AG and DBS Group Holdings Ltd. for their own breaches. UBS was fined S$1.3 million and DBS S$1 million for lapses by specific bank officers, the regulator said, adding that it has completed its inspections of the two banks relating to 1MDB fund flows.
UBS and DBS said in separate statements they will strengthen controls and take actions against employees responsible for the lapses.
The boards and senior management at banks “must set the tone from the top – that profits do not come before right conduct,” MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon said in the statement. “MAS will work closely with the industry to ensure that standards are kept high and will take strong deterrent actions against institutions that fall short.