The end game of Malaysia’s first global financial scandal, the RM50-55 billion 1MDB scandal (which incorporates the RM4.2 billion “donation” scandal) has started with the two-pronged crackdown in Singapore and Switzerland – the closure of the Singapore branch of BSI and the reference of the “top six” of BSI Singapore to the Singapore prosecutor for possible criminal offences and in Switzerland, the commencement of criminal proceedings against the bank by the Swiss authorities over “money laundering and corruption” offences relating to suspected embezzlement of US$4 billion from 1MDB and the liquidation of the 143-year-old Swiss bank.
In Malaysia, the Special Task Force into 1MDB, which had comprised the Bank Negara, the MACC, the Police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers should be resurrected and send representatives, together with representatives from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), to Singapore and Switzerland to learn how the investigative and enforcement authorities in these two countries could detect 1MDB money-laundering and corruption running into billions of ringgit but which had escaped multiple and intensive investigations by Malaysian authorities?
It is a supreme insult and blow to the credibility, capability, professionalism, integrity and authority of the Malaysian investigative and enforcement authorities that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) could order the closure of the private Swiss Bank BSI for failing to adequately monitor 1MDB funds to prevent money laundering and corrupt practices but its Malaysian counterparts are blissfully ignorant of such serious money-laundering malpractices.
In a statement dated 24 May, FINMA said BSI “executed numerous large transactions with unclear purpose over a period of several years and, despite clearly suspicious indications, did not clarify the background to these transactions.”
FINMA ordered “the disgorgement of illegally generated profits” of CHF95m (£65.4m; €85.8m; $95.6m) from BSI, which will go to the Swiss Confederation.
On its part, BSI said the fines, imposed by both Swiss and Singapore watchdogs – the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) imposed a fine of S$13.3m (£6.6m) for 41 breaches of its requirements – will be paid from BSI’s General Reserves for Banking Risks.
FINMA said it is also investigating two former top BSI managers, to determine what they knew about these breaches, how they behaved and their individual responsibility in the case. FINMA said it reserves the right to launch further such proceedings.
The regulator said that from 2011 to April, 2015, there were serious shortcomings in identifying transactions involving increased risk. “These failures related in particular to business relationships with politically exposed persons, the origin of whose assets was not sufficiently clarified, and whose dubious transactions involving hundreds of millions of US dollars were not satisfactorily scrutinised.”
The watchdog noted that the bank’s misconduct was the result of a “deliberate management decision” and that on numerous occasions, business relationships relating to 1MDB were discussed at top management level.
Although we may be at the “end game” of the 1MDB global scandal, the “wrap-up” phase is likely to be prolonged and protracted, which is why paradoxically, this is not the end of the 1MDB saga, but just another beginning.
The Financial Times yesterday reported that a number of other financial institutions in the world are claimed to have been involved in the web of 1MDB transactions that have spanned the US, Europe and Asia since the fund was set up in 2009, and that the BSI action by the Singapore and Swiss monetary authorities are unlikely to be the last regulatory sanction over the 1MDB case.
What concerns Malaysians is whether the Malaysian investigative and enforcement authorities, namely Bank Negara, MACC, Police, the AG’s Chambers as well as the Parliamentary Accounts Committee could redeem themselves and restore national and international confidence in their credibility, capability, professionalism, integrity and authority in the “end game” of the 1MDB saga.