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Singapore-Switzerland Swiss Falcon Bank manager charged amid 1MDB probe

Singapore is attempting to repair the reputation of its financial centre, which played host to some 1MDB-related activity

(Keystone)

Prosecutors in Singapore have charged a Swiss manager of the Falcon Private Bank as part of an ongoing investigation linked to the scandal-hit state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The banker, who headed the local Singapore branch, reportedly intends to plead guilty.

On Thursday, Singapore prosecutors filed 16 charges against the local branch manager of the Swiss-based Falcon Private Bank. These include ten charges of giving false information, five charges of failing to disclose suspicious information and one charge of failing to submit suspicious transactions against Jens Sturzenegger, who headed the local unit of Falcon, which is owned by Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co PJSC.

The Swiss national who was arrested in October, intends to plead guilty, his lawyer Tan Hee Joek from Tan See Swan & Co told a Singapore court. It was not immediately clear on which charges he would plead guilty. A hearing is set for January 11.

In Switzerland, Falcon said Sturzenegger is a former employee of the bank and refused to comment to Reuters.

The bank, which is also under investigation in Switzerland, was the second Swiss financial institution whose Singaporean unit was ordered to cease operations last year after BSI Bank Ltd. Last October the Monetary Authority of Singapore ordered Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore branch to stop operating because of “a persistent and severe lack of understanding” of Singapore’s money-laundering controls. It also accused Falcon’s senior management in Switzerland and Singapore of “improper conduct”.

Singapore is attempting to repair the reputation of its financial centre, which played host to some 1MDB-related activity. 1MDB, founded by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, is the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States. Najib, who also chaired 1MDB's advisory board, has denied wrongdoing and said Malaysia will cooperate with international investigations. 1MDB has also denied wrongdoing.

Singapore last year jailed three ex-BSI bankers, seized assets and sanctioned several lenders in what it has called its most complex, sophisticated and largest money-laundering case.

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