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Swiss bank probed in Malaysian fund scandal

Posted: 2:23 AM, May 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-24 08:26:47Z
GENEVA (AP) — The Swiss attorney general's office said Tuesday that it has opened criminal proceedings against Swiss bank BSI SA in connection with a probe into suspected embezzlement of a Malaysian state investment fund.
 
Separately, Singaporean authorities said they were ordering the bank's local branch to shut down, citing "serious breaches of anti-money laundering requirements," poor management oversight and gross misconduct by some staff. BSI's chief executive resigned.
 
In Switzerland, the attorney general's office said it "suspects deficiencies in the internal organization" of BSI, based in Lugano, that made it unable to prevent offenses that are being investigated in the 1MDB case.
 
Investigations into Malaysia's 1MDB fund have indicated that $4 billion earmarked for development projects in Malaysia may have been misappropriated from state-owned companies.
 
Switzerland says part of the money was transferred to accounts in the Alpine country. It opened an investigation last year of two former fund officials and persons unknown on suspicion of bribery and money laundering, among other offenses.
 
The investigation so far "suggests that the offenses of money laundering and bribery of foreign public officials currently under investigation in the context of the 1MDB case could have been prevented had BSI SA been adequately organized," the attorney general's office said.
 
The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it had served BSI Bank Limited, the bank's local subsidiary, notice of intention to withdraw its status as merchant bank in Singapore. It said it also has referred to prosecutors the names of six senior BSI Bank managers and staff to determine whether they committed criminal offenses.
 
MAS said it will, in the interest of BSI's customers, allow the transfer of the subsidiary's assets and liabilities to the local branch of EFG International, another Swiss bank which is buying all of BSI.
 
The announcement from Singapore didn't explicitly mention 1MDB, but BSI said it had "cooperated fully" with both Swiss market supervisors and Singapore's MAS on investigations into the fund arising from activities between 2011 and 2015.
 
It added that it "has undertaken significant steps to strengthen management." Regarding the Swiss attorney general's announcement, it said that "BSI will cooperate to ensure a quick and fair resolution."
 
CEO Stefano Coduri offered his resignation with immediate effect. The resignation was accepted by the board of directors, which thanked him "for his sense of responsibility," the bank's statement said. Roberto Isolani, currently a BSI board member, was appointed to replace him.