KUALA LUMPUR: The UK’s Serious Fraud Office, according to media reports, was reportedly probing RBS Coutts in Zurich, owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), for being party to the alleged fraudulent transfer of funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is wholly-owned by the Ministry of Finance Malaysia (MoF) and touted as a strategic investment and development arm.
The UK, the reports said, was following up on various allegations uploaded by UK-based The Sarawak Report, a whistleblowing website founded and edited by Sarawak-born Clare Rewcastle-Brown, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The Times said that it had sighted documents linking RBS Coutts in Zurich with 1MDB on possible criminal elements, including the transfer of monies out from Malaysia that originated from the company. “The bank faces questions over its compliance checks and the beneficiaries of the money,” the newspaper said.
Both RBS Coutts and the UK Serious Fraud Office declined to comment. RBS cited client confidentiality, said The Times.
The media reports in the UK also referred to various probes underway in Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, US and France, among others. While the probe in French Court was on French officials paying kickbacks to Malaysian officials for a USD1.2 billion arms deal, the other probes were on money laundering and related criminal elements.
1MDB figures in all these probes.
As previously reported in the local media, the Swiss Attorney-General, according to a statement, recently made contact with his Malaysian counterpart to alert him to the possibility that as much as USD4 billion may be missing from 1MDB. It was reported that a Malaysian official tried to persuade the Swiss AG last September to drop his investigations related to 1MDB.
Attorney-General Mohd Apandi Ali has pledged to cooperate with the Swiss, as requested, under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) arrangement between the two countries. He has denied that he was the Malaysian official who tried to persuade the Swiss AG to drop 1MDB from his probe into Swiss banks allegedly involved in money laundering.
The focus of the Swiss investigation, according to the AG’s Office in that country, has been on Swiss banks in the country and elsewhere including Singapore being involved in money laundering. The Swiss AG, according to a press statement, was probing possible violations of Swiss laws related to the bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.