Archive for October, 2016

31
Oct
16

Behind the 1MDB scandal – Part 3

Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure


In early 2011, Good Star sent $US24.5 million to a Riyadh bank account held by Prince Turki, the PetroSaudi co-owner, according to the Justice Department complaint. The prince then sent $US20 million via an intermediary to Mr Najib’s private accounts at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur, according to the complaint and someone familiar with the probe. The prince couldn’t be reached for comment, and a lawyer for PetroSaudi didn’t respond to requests for comment on the transfer.

The transfer represented the first drip of what would become a flood of cash — about $US1 billion — that flowed into Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts over the next two years, according to the bank-transfer records. Nearly all originated with 1MDB, according to the Justice Department and the transfer records.

The prime minister gave Mr Low access to the accounts, according to investigative documents. His primary contact at AmBank was Joanna Yu, the banker he had warned via BlackBerry to communicate discreetly. Cheah Tek Kuang, a senior AmBank executive and adviser to the chairman, handled the account personally, the BlackBerry messages indicate.

Mr Low messaged that if Malaysia’s central-bank governor, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, raised concerns about 1MDB-related transfers, Mr Cheah was to see her and “let her know this is boss request,” an apparent reference to Mr Najib.

An AmBank spokesman declined to comment, as did Ms. Zeti. Ms. Yu and Mr Cheah didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mr Low sent hampers of food to Ms. Yu and lunched with her at noodle shops, according to the phone messages. He kept reinforcing the need for secrecy: “v v important no one should know in ambank besides u or cheah or get hold of statement,” one message said. “Cause if it gets on internet where funds were from then headache.”

Investigators believe someone in Mr Low’s entourage created letters vouching for the origin of the funds, according to people familiar with probes in two countries.

A letter dated February 1, 2011, which was reviewed by the Journal, said Mr Najib was being given $US100 million as a reward for Malaysia’s “good work to promote Islam around the world.” It said the gift “should not in any event be construed as an act of corruption.”

It was signed Saud Abdulaziz Majid al Saud, who is a minor Saudi royal. But he donated no money and wasn’t the instigator of the letter, according to a person involved in the matter. The prince didn’t respond to requests for comment.

AmBank’s Mr Cheah sent the letter to the central bank.

More such letters followed, some using nearly identical language, describing purported gifts of hundreds of millions of dollars.

…more
Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure
Tom Wright, Bradley Hope
Wall Street Journal
September 6, 2016 – The Australian

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30
Oct
16

Falcon Bank sanctioned by Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority for 1MDB breaches

Falcon sanctioned for 1MDB breaches

Falcon Private Bank Ltd. has seriously breached money laundering regulations by failing 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 Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA has ordered the disgorgement of illegally generated profits amounting to CHF 2.5 million and banned the bank from entering into business relationships with foreign politically exposed persons for a period of three years. Furthermore, the bank would have its licence withdrawn in the event of a further breach. FINMA has launched enforcement proceedings against two of the bank’s former executives.

FINMA launched enforcement proceedings against Falcon Private Bank Ltd. (Falcon) at the beginning of 2016 based on evidence that Swiss money laundering regulations had been breached. The breaches in question relate to business relationships and transactions in the context of the alleged corruption scandal surrounding the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. An investigating agent appointed by FINMA analysed the transactions, internal processes and the bank’s control organisation.

Falcon breached anti-money laundering due diligence requirements

FINMA concluded its enforcement proceedings against Falcon at the beginning of October 2016. In the period under investigation between 2012 and the summer of 2015, FINMA identified serious shortcomings in Falcon’s anti-money laundering activities and in risk management. Assets amounting to approximately USD 3.8 billion were transferred to accounts at Falcon and associated with the 1MDB Group during that period. These funds were 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. Although management’s attention was drawn to these matters, it repeatedly failed to properly investigate the business relationships, specifically those with politically exposed persons (PEPs), and high-risk transactions; it also failed to adequately analyse or monitor the risks involved. In doing so, Falcon was in serious breach of its duty to ensure proper business conduct.

Falcon failed to adequately check transactions and business relationships

The bank had a number of business relationships with domiciliary companies within the 1MDB Group and executed transactions amounting to approximately USD 2.5 billion via the accounts of two of these offshore companies. The bank failed to adequately check the background and risk profile of these complex transactions in sufficient depth. It did not sufficiently query or assess the plausibility of the proffered documents and information about the supposed financing of energy projects, nor did it question the commercial background of the USD 1.3 billion which was immediately transferred from one account to another (pass-through transactions).

Falcon also had a client relationship with a young Malaysian businessman with links to individuals in Malaysian government circles. The bank did not verify how this individual had been able to acquire assets of USD 135 million in an extremely short period of time or why a total of USD 1.2 billion was transferred to his accounts at a later date – a transaction which was clearly at variance with the information he had provided when opening the account. Falcon also failed to adequately investigate the commercial background to pass-through transactions amounting to USD 681 million and the repayment six months later of USD 620 million via these accounts despite conflicting evidence. In this context, an internal Falcon email states: “We started this six months ago and now we have to go through with it – somehow”.

Internal warnings were ignored

A number of bank employees expressed serious concerns to their managers about the relationship with the Malaysian businessman because of numerous suspicious factors and key questions remaining unanswered. One internal email relating to the transfer of USD 1.2 billion states: “We can’t find any reason/motivation/statement why this transaction has to pass through FPB [Falcon] and not from [Bank X] directly to the respective parties […].” Nevertheless, these internal warnings were not followed up satisfactorily.

Although the bank’s decision-makers were aware of these internal concerns, they decided to carry out the transactions. The focus was always on trying to process the transactions on time. One senior manager warned the Singapore branch carrying out the transactions: “Head Office is watching you”.

…more
Falcon sanctioned for 1MDB breaches
11 October 2016 – FINMA

30
Oct
16

Swiss Attorney General Expands Probe of Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund

Swiss Attorney General Expands Probe of Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund

Zurich-based lender Falcon investigated for possible failure to prevent alleged money laundering tied to 1MDB

ZURICH—Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General has expanded its scrutiny of Malaysian public investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, by opening a criminal probe of a small Swiss lender recently penalized for its 1MDB ties.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said on Wednesday that internal “deficiencies” at Zurich-based Falcon Private Bank AG may have caused it to fail to prevent alleged money laundering associated with 1MDB. The Swiss authorities opened a broad 1MDB investigation last year, and have previously said they placed another Swiss bank, BSI SA, under a related criminal probe. The status of that probe is unclear.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the Swiss attorney general’s office was examining transactions tied to 1MDB that were made through Falcon. A spokesman for the bank said on Wednesday that it has been cooperating with the attorney general’s office, and that it “will continue to do so in order to contribute to an expeditious clarification of the allegations against the bank.” A spokeswoman for BSI declined to comment.

The latest disclosure follows announcements from regulators in Switzerland and Singapore that cited alleged breaches of money laundering rules at Falcon related to its dealings with 1MDB. On Tuesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore ordered Falcon to shut down its local branch, while Switzerland’s financial regulator Finma ordered the bank to disgorge 2.5 million Swiss francs ($2.5 million) in what it said was illegally generated profit.

The alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from 1MDB has been the focus of investigations in a number of countries. The Swiss attorney general’s office recently said it suspects an alleged “Ponzi scheme” at the fund, which was established in 2009 by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that global investigators believe that more than $1 billion originating from 1MDB landed in Mr. Najib’s bank accounts. Mr. Najib has denied any wrongdoing. 1MDB has denied wrongdoing and has said it is cooperating with authorities.

Switzerland’s Finma said on Tuesday that roughly $3.8 billion in assets associated with 1MDB were transferred to accounts at Falcon between 2012 and last year, and “were generally moved on quickly.”

…more
Swiss Attorney General Expands Probe of Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund
By John Letzing
Oct. 12, 2016 – WSJ

29
Oct
16

Behind the 1MDB scandal – Part 2

Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure


Saudi connection

The alleged plot began just after Mr Najib, the prime minister, founded 1MDB in mid-2009.

That August, a group of Malaysians, including the prime minister and Mr Low, met in France with Turki bin Abdullah al Saud, a son of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and co-owner of a private Saudi oil company called PetroSaudi International Ltd., according to documents reviewed by the Journal.

Weeks later, 1MDB signed a joint venture with PetroSaudi toward which the Malaysian fund pledged to contribute $US1 billion. Only $US300 million of 1MDB’s money reached the Saudi joint venture, the Justice Department says. Officials at the fund ordered the rest —$US700 million — to go to a Seychelles-based shell company called Good Star Ltd, which the Justice Department says was owned by Mr Low. Later, 1MDB sent another $US330 million to Good Star.

Employees at 1MDB’s banker, Deutsche Bank AG, wanted to know why the money wasn’t going to the joint venture and asked questions about Good Star, according to the Justice Department complaint.

1MDB’s executive director at the time told a Deutsche Bank officer in a phone conversation to push through the payment or face blame if the “deal goes off,” according to a transcript cited by the Justice Department. The transcript didn’t name the executive director, but someone with direct knowledge of the matter said it was Casey Tang.

“I’m under tremendous pressure” to get the deal done, the executive director added, according to the transcript.

“Let me just convince my compliance person,” said the banker, who wasn’t named. “It’s a little bit sticky.”

When the banker kept asking for details, 1MDB’s executive director said the money was going directly to PetroSaudi to settle debts, even though there had been no discussion of that in 1MDB’s agreement with the Saudi company, according to the Justice Department.

Deutsche Bank processed the transfer. Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, which monitors large transfers into and out of the country, added its imprimatur, according to the Justice Department complaint.

PetroSaudi has denied wrongdoing and “rejects any claims that it is involved in the misappropriation of funds from 1MDB,” its lawyer said. Mr Tang couldn’t be reached for comment. Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

Malaysia’s Corruption Scandal

Months later, 1MDB’s auditing firm, Ernst & Young, asked questions about how the fund was classifying the Saudi joint venture investment on its books. 1MDB management tried to portray the payments as government-to-government business, even though PetroSaudi was a private company, according to minutes of the fund’s board meetings.

Unsatisfied with the answer, the audit firm declined to sign off on 1MDB’s financial accounts for the 2010 financial year.

Mr Najib, who headed 1MDB’s board of advisers, intervened, firing the auditor, according to a 1MDB document reviewed by the Journal. When the new auditor, KPMG, raised questions about the same investment a few years later, he fired that company, too, according to 1MDB board minutes.

Ernst & Young and KPMG declined to comment.

…more
Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure
Tom Wright, Bradley Hope
Wall Street Journal
September 6, 2016 – The Australian

28
Oct
16

Najib’s ‘muruku’ budget

Amanah crunches on Najib’s ‘muruku’ budget

Biting into Budget 2017 after Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak tabled it last week, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) dismissed the Supply Bill as mere “muruku” or finger food that taste good at the outset but will do nothing to address the nation’s hunger for fiscal stability and reforms.

Amanah strategic director Dzulkefly Ahmad admitted that the “sweeteners” slipped in by Najib into the budget like higher BR1M payouts and other goodies created a whole lot of good feelings for the short term.

“But how long can one be sated by what feels and tastes good? Only as long as there is something to munch on while waiting for more substantial food. Like guests given ‘muruku’ whilst visiting a friend’s house during Deepavali.

“The ‘muruku’ tastes good. Of course. But if until night time the guests are still only given ‘muruku’, it is strange and something must be wrong,” Dzulkefly wrote in a blog post today.

Despite the feel-good goodies, Dzulkefly said Budget 2017 fell short of really addressing economic issues and the rakyat’s concerns.

He pointed out that first and foremost the budget featured RM262.8 billion total figure, but most of it is for operating budget which stands as RM214.8 billion.

Only RM48 billion or 18.3 percent is allocated for development expenditure, and further more, only RM25.9 billion is marked for economic development at a time when our economy needs more stimulus and development amidst a slowing global economy.

Dzulkefly claimed Najib had a habit of “hiding” allocations for economic stimulation via off-budget spending, mostly because these were funded by debts which the government did not want to appear on the budget proper.

“These debts are not counted or seems ‘visible’ in the balance sheet as debts or liabilities. Thus, they are hidden. And national finances looks healthy,” said the Amanah leader.

The same theme is prevalent in how debts were hidden in government-linked firms which however continued to be the contingent liabilities that must be borne by the government via debt guarantees despite not appearing in the balance sheet proper.

The government’s BR1M sweetener also fell off the mark said Dzulkefly explaining that the mere pittance given won’t last for long and indeed meant nothing as the rising costs of living more than offset the one-off payment.

The money would have been better spent to reduce tolls, providing childcare services and other measures that could take the edge off rising living costs for the populace.

Dzulkefly also said that allowing more people to drive ride-sharing services like Uber would not solve the long-term need to create decent income and more jobs.

Nor would such short-term flashy promises address the long-term need to increase the productivity of the existing workforce.

He also pointed out helping more people to get loans for housing would not help solve the issue of depressed wages. As even when they now qualify for loans, they still have to struggle to make ends meet and pay off the loans.

Dzulkefly reminded Najib that only 2.1 million workers fall under the category of tax-payers as the rest of the 14.6 million workers fall below the tax bracket, something that should illustrate how low our wages are.

The Amanah leader also lambasted the cut in research and development funding for universities as something that bode ill for our future development.

Dzulkefly sniped that other then tasting as good as ‘muruku’, Najib’s Budget 2017 only other merit is that its theme of “Menjamin Perpaduan dan Pertumbuhan Ekonomi, Menghemah Perbelanjaan Inklusif, Mensejahtera Kehidupan Rakyat Seluruh” is the longest since Merdeka.

…more
Amanah crunches on Najib’s ‘muruku’ budget
27 Oct 2016 – malaysiakini

27
Oct
16

Behind the 1MDB scandal – Part 1

Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure

Financier Jho Low, who investigators believe is at the centre of one of the largest-ever financial scandals, kept up a stream of messages to an official at AmBank Bhd. Mr Low was obsessed about how the bank handled the peculiar accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Don’t let people outside the bank or more than a few people inside know about the accounts, he instructed. Use Gmail, not the bank’s email system, for communication. Whatever you do, don’t send credit-card statements to the prime minister’s house.

“No no no,” Mr Low wrote, according to transcripts of BlackBerry messages reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Super sensitive.” He instead had someone collect the statements by hand.

Between 2009 and 2013, Mr Low, a family friend of the prime minister, and his associates helped embezzle at least $US3.5 billion from 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a state investment fund created by Mr Najib, the US Justice Department alleged in a lawsuit filed in July.

It couldn’t have happened without the co-operation of a handful of bankers and the failure of a host of financial institutions and regulators to detect the alleged fraud, investigators believe. Mr Low and his cohorts for years eluded detection or interference by at least eight banks, big accounting firms, a central bank and various government regulators, according to the Justice Department, investigative documents from other countries and people familiar with the affair. The banks included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Standard Chartered PLC.

Mr Low, who had no official position at 1MDB, employed trickery, setting up offshore shell companies with misleading names, misidentifying money transfers as “gifts” and putting money into art and real estate to conceal its origins, according to the Justice Department. His cohorts inside and outside the fund pressured bank compliance officers, relied on close relationships with others and got help from people inside governments, according to the complaint and other documents. When some accountants raised questions, they were fired.

That the alleged fraud could roll on for so long without detection suggests weaknesses in a global system designed to clamp down on money laundering, a problem US and other Western leaders have pledged to fix.

Investigators in at least seven countries are still trying to figure out what happened to all the money. 1MDB was supposed to invest in energy and property businesses to create jobs, but funds instead moved to secret offshore havens and later was distributed among various participants, the Justice Department alleges. Bank-transfer records reviewed by the Journal show that large sums wound up in the prime minister’s personal accounts at AmBank, which is based in Kuala Lumpur. So far, US investigators have traced more than $US1 billion to the purchase of luxury real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London, as well as the financing of a Hollywood movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the Justice Department says.

The US has moved to seize assets and is conducting a criminal investigation of some of those involved, according to people involved with the matter.

Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said the money received came from a Saudi donor, much of which was returned. The Malaysian lawyer general agreed and cleared him of any crime. 1MDB has denied wrongdoing and said it would co-operate with any lawful international investigation. A lawyer for Mr Low declined to comment. Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered have said they did nothing wrong.

…more
Behind the 1MDB scandal: How banks missed clues and bowed to pressure
Tom Wright, Bradley Hope
Wall Street Journal
September 6, 2016 – The Australian

26
Oct
16

Falcon Bank managers ignored 1MDB red flags

Falcon Bank managers ignored 1MDB red flags

Employees alerted top managers to suspicious transactions but two Falcon Bank board members insisted the transactions be pushed through, says Swiss regulator.

KUALA LUMPUR: Managers at Falcon Bank, against whom Singapore and Swiss financial regulators have taken action, were alerted by employees to possible shady activities but chose to ignore them.

According to Swiss regulator Finma, bank managers were under pressure from two board members with 1Malaysia Development Bhd ties to approve USD3.8 billion of asset transfers linked to the fund from 2012 to mid-2015.

“Although management’s attention was drawn to these matters, it repeatedly failed to properly investigate the business relationships, specifically those with politically exposed persons, and high-risk transactions,”Finma, said in a statement.

These latest developments in the 1MDB scandal shed further light on how international banks allegedly aided in the misuse of 1MDB funds meant for economic development, according to a Bloomberg report.

Finma said Zurich-based Falcon Private Bank’s managers were focused on making sure 1MDB’s transactions went smoothly and that they attached “great significance” to the accounts because two of the bank’s board members had initiated the 1MDB relationship.

Finma said both board members pursued their own “illegitimate purposes”. It added that they had since left the board and that there was no evidence other board members of Falcon were implicated.

The Bloomberg report said Falcon and its main shareholder, Aabar Investments PJS, welcomed the completion of investigations by Finma and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which also released results of an investigation into Falcon on Tuesday.

“Following a constructive dialogue, this completion finally resolves the 1MDB topic for the Bank with the regulators,” Falcon said, without disputing the regulators’ findings or indicating that the firm will challenge them, Bloomberg reported.

“Safeguarding the Bank’s reputation and the adherence to all laws, regulations and rules is of highest importance to Falcon Private Bank and its employees.”

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.

Bloomberg said 1MDB didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Tuesday.

Among the questionable Falcon dealings highlighted by Swiss authorities was a USD681 million “pass through” transaction in an unnamed Malaysian businessman’s accounts, Bloomberg reported.

“While the Swiss statement didn’t provide details on where the USD681 million ended up, the figure matches what Najib has acknowledged receiving in his own accounts before the country’s 2013 general election.

…more
Falcon Bank managers ignored 1MDB red flags
October 12, 2016 – FMT




Nuclear lessons for Malaysia (Part 1) (Part 2)
BN govt is directing attention to distant past and distant future, in order to distract people from present misdeeds and poor governance
Felda - A picture is worth a thousand words
How the 1MDB Scandal Spread Across the World (WSJ)
We cannot afford ridiculously expensive RM55 Billion ECRL!
All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?

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