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Swiss watchdog digging deeper into 1MDB scandal

Swiss watchdog digging deeper into 1MDB scandal

Switzerland is still investigating suspects linked to the multi-billion dollar corruption scandal involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

Following Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber’s visit to Putrajaya on Tuesday, it has been revealed that Swiss authorities are currently probing six people and two banks suspected of involvement in 1MDB.

According to a statement from the office of the attorney general of Switzerland (OAG), Lauber met with Malaysian counterpart, Tommy Thomas, to discuss the coordination of the investigation into 1MDB.

The Swiss prosecutor’s previous request for cooperation with the Malaysian government was rejected by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is the key figure in the 1MDB scandal.

OAG launched investigations in 2015. Currently, it is conducting investigations against two former 1MDB officials suspected of bribery and money laundering, among other counts.

Since 2016, OAG has also been looking into the dealings of two former officials from the United Arab Emirates who were in charge of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign funds.

The prosecutor opened proceedings against two Petrosaudi officials in 2017 on suspicions of criminal mismanagement, bribery and money laundering.

While OAG did not name the people being investigated, it clarified that Najib is not one of the public officials under accusation.

Meanwhile, OAG is also looking into the internal organisation of BSI Bank and Falcon Private Bank after Swiss market regulator Finma launched enforcement proceedings against the two banks in 2016 for breaching money laundering regulations.

Both private banks were ordered to cease operations in Singapore following the 1MDB investigations in 2016.

Switzerland has been working closely with the US, Luxembourg and Singapore to investigate the use of financing obtained by the Malaysia’s sovereign fund founded by Najib and its former unit, SRC International.

The meeting comes hot on the heels of Najib’s indictment for his alleged involvement as well as media reports that Tim Leissner, a former Goldman Sachs banker, is in plea talks with US authorities for his role in the matter.

Soon after Mahathir bin Mohammad’s historic victory over Najib in the 9 May general election, Malaysian authorities seized millions in goods from Najib’s properties and have since charged him with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of using his position for gratification.

Malaysia’s previous attorney general, Apandi Ali, had cleared Najib of any wrongdoing.

The Malaysian police have also sent a formal request to Macau authorities to arrest Malaysian financier Low Taek Jhow, who is considered to be instrumental to the scandal.

According to media reports, Lauber told reporters in Putrajaya that about $7 billion related to 1MDB had flowed through the global financial system between 2009 and 2015. The US Department of Justice had initially estimated a sum of $4.5 billion.

The funds were meant for energy, real estate and other development projects but at least part of the financing was used for the personal enrichment of those involved, according to authorities.

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