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Singapore seizes bank accounts linked to Malaysia sovereign wealth fund

The Singapore Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said Monday they have seized a “large number” of bank accounts linked to a money laundering investigation involving the Malaysia state investment fund 1MDB.

Their joint statement Monday said,

Singapore does not tolerate the use of its financial system as a refuge or conduit for illicit funds. Since the middle of last year, the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been actively investigating possible money-laundering and other offenses carried out in Singapore.

In connection with these investigations, we have sought and are continuing to seek information from several financial institutions, are interviewing various individuals, and have seized a large number of bank accounts.

Singapore is also cooperating closely with relevant authorities, including those in Malaysia, Switzerland, and the United States. We have responded to all foreign requests for information and have requested for information from relevant counterparts to aid in our investigations.

As investigations are still ongoing, we are not able to provide more details at this stage.

1MDB — short for 1Malaysia Development Berhad — said Monday night it hasn’t been contacted by any foreign legal authorities on any matters relating to the fund.

1MDB’s advisory board is chaired by Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Swiss prosecutors said in a January 29 statement they are seeking legal assistance from Malaysia after a criminal investigation in Switzerland produced “serious indications” that about $4 billion may have been misappropriated from 1MBD.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said Najib is “not one of the public officials under accusation.”

The AG’s office said “a small portion” of the $4 billion was “transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by various former Malaysian public officials and both former and current public officials from the United [Arab] Emirates.”

The Swiss statement said,

So far four cases involving allegations of criminal conduct and covering the period from 2009 to 2013 have come to light in this connection (relating to Petrosaudi, SRC, Genting/ Tanjong and ADMIC), each involving a systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures.

“To date, however,” the Swiss statement said, “the Malaysian companies concerned have made no comment on the losses they are believed to have incurred.”

Prime Minister Najib said last week a criminal investigation in Malaysia cleared him of wrongdoing for about $680 million in “gifts” he received from the Saudi royal family. He said he later returned about $620 million, without giving details.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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