Abu Dhabi to revive sale of 1MDB-tarnished Falcon Assets

Residential and commercial skyscrapers along the coastline in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in April last year. (Bloomberg pic)

ZURICH: Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development is reviving plans to sell Falcon Private Bank in Switzerland as it seeks to distance itself from the 1MDB money laundering scandal, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The state-backed investment firm has invited bids for at least five billion francs (US$5 billion) of assets managed by Zurich-based Falcon, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plans are private. The bank had held unsuccessful talks with potential buyers last year, people familiar with the matter said.

Mubadala is seeking to move past the 1MDB scandal after Falcon Bank’s Singapore unit was closed by regulators for failing to adequately flag US$1.27 billion in suspicious deposits linked to the government fund known as 1MDB.

A branch manager in Singapore was also jailed as regulators and prosecutors investigated how banks were used to funnel corrupt money.

A spokesman for Falcon declined to comment, saying that the management and board of Falcon is focused on its current strategy. A spokesperson for Mubadala also declined to comment.

Goldman Sachs

Mubadala also recently halted new business with Goldman Sachs Group as it seeks damages from the bank for what it calls its “central role” in the 1MDB scandal, according to the fund.

The bank is accused of misleading investors when it helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion through bond deals in 2012 and 2013, while allegedly knowing that the funds would be misappropriated.

Falcon hired Boston Consulting Group in the aftermath of the scandal to review its operations and identify revenue sources as part of its mandate, people familiar with the matter said last year. The bank has been pursuing a strategy based around cryptocurrencies and digital private banking.

Small Swiss private banks such as Falcon are struggling to boost revenues and margins a decade after the end of Swiss banking secrecy rules, as regulatory costs rise and compliance procedures grow stricter. The bank generated 93.6 million francs in revenues and made a net loss in 2017, one of the people said.