Singapore Slaps Bans on Bankers Over 1MDB

Billions from Malaysia's 1MDB fund ended up financing a $107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing, a $30 million penthouse at Time Warner Center in New York, a $35 million Bombardier Jet, and even Hollywood blockbuster «The Wolf of Wall Street», reports Finews. 

Two banks – Banca della Svizzera Italiana, or BSI, and Falcon Private Bank – have been sent packing from Singapore for laundering 1MDB money. A handful more including UBS, DBS and Standard Chartered have been sanctioned. 

Several private bankers have also stood trial, including BSI's Yak Yew Chee and Falcon's Singapore head, Jens Sturzenegger, for their dealings with 1MDB.

Show of Force

At BSI, Yak was the banker to Jho Low, a now-AWOL Malaysian who U.S. prosecutors accuse of being the mastermind behind the complex and opaque network of offshore accounts designed to pilfer and launder from the fund.

Singapore is under pressure to respond forcefully to the wrong-doing in order to safeguard the reputation of its fast-growing financial center, which like Switzerland, relies heavily on offshore private banking. On Monday, the financial regulator issued a show of force.

Yak and Sturzenegger will be banned from Singapore's banking industry for life, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said. Meanwhile, Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, a banker who reported to Yak at BSI and, like him, pleaded guilty to criminal charges, will be banned for 15 years.

Brunner's Fate?

MAS said it wouldn't stand for bankers breaking rules.

«MAS will not hesitate to bar such individuals from carrying out regulated activities in the financial industry. It is imperative that industry professionals and representatives of financial institutions are fit and proper persons. They must be worthy of the trust that people place in them and their institutions,» Ong Chong Tee, the deputy managing director of financial supervision, said in a statement.

A former Goldman Sachs banker in Asia, Tim Leissner, was banned for ten years for writing an unauthorized letter to a Luxembourg bank and to have made false statements on behalf of the American investment bank.

The statement made no mention of Hanspeter Brunner, the Swiss banker who formerly ran BSI's private bank in Asia before he hurriedly stepped aside last spring as the international probe heated up. MAS also made no mention of Yeo Jiawei, another former BSI banker who ranked below the others in hierarchy at the firm, but who had direct contact with Low.

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