1MDB case: Swiss man charged over alleged dealings with Jho Low

Sturzenegger was accused of lying to police and MAS about his ties to Mr Low, the Malaysian tycoon suspected of being at the centre of alleged money laundering linked to 1MDB.
Sturzenegger was accused of lying to police and MAS about his ties to Mr Low, the Malaysian tycoon suspected of being at the centre of alleged money laundering linked to 1MDB.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Ex-Falcon branch manager allegedly connived in bank's failure to comply with anti-money laundering rules

A Swiss national became the fifth person - and first foreigner - to be charged here over alleged dealings with the Malaysian tycoon entangled in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Jens Sturzenegger, former branch manager of Falcon Private Bank, was charged with 16 counts yesterday. These included "conniving" in Falcon's failure to comply with anti-money laundering rules when it failed to report suspicious transactions tied to inflows of about US$1.265 billion (S$1.81 billion) into two accounts between March 21 and 25, 2013.

Sturzenegger, 42, was also accused of lying to police and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) about his ties to tycoon Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low. Mr Low is accused by the authorities around the world of being at the centre of alleged massive money laundering linked to 1MDB.

It is believed hundreds of millions of dollars have been transferred from accounts at Falcon to Mr Low and his associates as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been cleared of wrongdoing by Malaysia's Attorney-General.

Local prosecutors told the court yesterday that a plea offer had been made to Sturzenegger. His lawyer, Mr Tan Hee Joek, said his client intends to plead guilty to some of the charges. He is out on bail of $80,000.

  • SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTION THAT WAS NOT DISCLOSED

  • $378m 

    From Granton Property Holding's account to an account beneficially owned by Mr Low. 

  • OTHER SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTIONS NOT REPORTED 

    $9.19m 

    $20m 

    $30m 

    $12m 

    Note: Figures are in US dollars.

 

Singapore is the only nation to have secured convictions related to hundreds of millions of dollars misappropriated from 1MDB and moved through accounts in banks, including Falcon, Standard Chartered, Coutts and BSI.

Falcon was shut down by regulators here last October, following similar action against BSI in May. Falcon was accused of "a persistent and severe lack of understanding" of MAS' anti-money laundering regulations and fined $4.3 million here.

MAS said Sturzenegger's "improper conduct... had impaired the effectiveness of the Singapore branch's compliance function in discharging its responsibilities". He was arrested on Oct 5.

According to United States prosecutors, over US$1.26 billion in proceeds from a US$3 billion bond issue by 1MDB had been "diverted to unrelated overseas shell company accounts" opened at Falcon, including Granton Property Holding's.

Sturzenegger was charged with failing to report suspicious transactions relating to a transfer of US$378 million on March 25, 2013, from Granton's account to an account beneficially owned by Mr Low. There were other suspicious transactions of US$9.19 million, US$20 million, US$30 million and US$12 million.

Sturzenegger was also accused of lying or abetting another to lie to MAS about Mr Low's involvement with four Falcon accounts.

Prosecutors allege Sturzenegger had known Mr Low since February 2012, but claimed he knew of him only through press articles in 2015. Sturzenegger is also accused of knowing since March 2013 that Mr Low was "orchestrating the transactions in the four Falcon accounts".

Sturzenegger faces a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of $5,000, or both, for allegedly giving false information to a public officer.

For conniving in Falcon's failure to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, he faces a fine of up to $1 million.

Sturzenegger's plea hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline '1MDB case: Swiss man charged over alleged dealings with Jho Low'. Print Edition | Subscribe