Questions for MAS on 1MDB

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) building in Shenton Way, on March 29, 2017.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) building in Shenton Way, on March 29, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

I am delighted to note that as a result of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) thorough investigations into Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), "two Swiss private banks were shuttered and several other banks were fined a total of $30 million for failing to meet anti-money laundering standards" (Singapore's 1MDB probe not due to political influence, March 21).

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filings detail how the money laundering was facilitated by a number of things, such as international banks not being vigilant enough, jurisdictions that allowed companies to operate without transparency and shell companies that were set up in areas with lax regulation, among others.

It has been ascertained by the DOJ that US$835 million (S$1.13 billion) in proceeds was diverted to a local bank account held in the name of Tanore Finance Corporation at Falcon Bank in Singapore and another US$430 million was sent to the Falcon Bank account of Granton Property Holdings in Singapore.

In March 2013, US$681 million from the Tanore account in Singapore was transferred and deposited in former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's personal private banking account with AmBank Malaysia.

Najib has publicly acknowledged the receipt of these funds and, in August 2013, returned the amount of US$620 million via the same bank account that he received the funds from in Singapore.

In view of the above facts, I am seeking clarification from MAS as to whether our central bank was alerted through its own internal monitoring system or processes to a large number of funds being transferred from the Singapore bank to the Malaysian bank account.

If so, why was the transfer to an overseas bank account belonging to a "politically exposed person" such as the then Prime Minister of Malaysia not prevented or examined closely?

Furthermore, it is a matter of public interest for the central bank to clarify that out of the US$620 million that was returned, how much money belonging to 1MDB is currently being held by MAS or the proper authorities in Singapore.

Has the money been disbursed or transferred out to third parties?

Finally, why were the fraudulently obtained funds from 1MDB not returned to the Malaysian government or the US DOJ, which has instituted legal proceedings to recover these funds?

I hope that MAS will be able to enlighten us.

Sattar Bawany (Professor)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Questions for MAS on 1MDB'. Print Edition | Subscribe