Falcon Bank's ex-Singapore branch manager slapped with 16 1MDB-related charges

Jens Fred Sturzeneggar leaving the State Courts.
Jens Fred Sturzeneggar leaving the State Courts. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore office on the 26th floor of Centennial Tower.
Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore office on the 26th floor of Centennial Tower. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore authorities have charged Falcon Private Bank's former Singapore branch manager, Swiss national Jens Sturzenegger, with 16 offences relating to Singapore's probe into Malaysian state fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Sturzenegger, 42, is expected to plead guilty on Jan 11, it was disclosed in a Singapore court on Thursday (Jan 5). Representing Sturzenegger, Mr Tan Hee Joek of the law firm of Tan See Swan & Co told The Straits Times today that his client intends to plead guilty to some of the charges.

He was released on bail of S$80,000.

Sturzenegger is the fifth person but the first foreigner charged in Singapore amid global-wide probes into money-laundering and corruption at the Malaysian fund. 1MDB has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

In October last year, Falcon Bank became the second bank to be closed down by Singapore regulators over 1MDB connections, after BSI in May.

In one of the charges, Sturzenegger was accused of conniving in Falcon's failure to submit reports on suspicious transactions relating to inflows of US$1.265 billion (S$1.82 billion) into two Falcon bank accounts between March 21 and 25, 2013, to the Suspicious Transactions Reporting Office of the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

In another charge, he was accused of giving false information to a CAD officer that he met Eric Tan, a close business associate of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, on March 14, 2013 when in fact he had met Mr Low himself. Sturznegger was accused of causing the CAD officer to "omit probing for connections" between Mr Low and himself.

Mr Low, most often referred to as Jho Low, is a confidant of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's family and among figures allegedly at the heart of 1MDB's angled dealings. Mr Low has said previously he provided "occasional" consulting to 1MDB that did not break any laws.

On Wednesday, the lawyer for Yeo Jiawei, a former BSI banker found guilty of attempting to tamper with witnesses in an 1MDB-related case, said he will appeal his conviction and sentence.

Yeo, 34, was sentenced on Dec 22 to a 30-month jail term, the longest yet handed down by a Singapore court in 1MDB-related cases. He also faces money-laundering charges, set to be heard in court this April.

Yeo is the third former BSI banker to be found guilty in the city's 1MDB investigations.

Yak Yew Chee was sentenced in November to an 18-week jail term and fined for forging documents and failing to disclose suspicious transactions allegedly related to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho. His subordinate, Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, was jailed for two weeks and fined on Dec 16 for similar offenses. Yak and Seah didn't file appeals, according to their lawyers.

Another Singaporean, Kelvin Ang Wee Keng, believed to be a former remisier at Maybank Kim Eng Securities, is out on bail of S$100,000. Mr Ang, who allegedly had dealings with Yeo Jiawei, was charged in April last year with corruptly giving a gratification sum of S$3,000 to a research analyst, allegedly to expedite the preparation of a favourable valuation report.