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S'pore authorities seize S$120m belonging to Jho Low and family
Published:  Jul 21, 2016 11:58 AM
Updated: 5:02 AM

Singapore authorities have seized a total of S$240 million in bank accounts and properties, with S$120 million of that amount belonging to businessman Jho Low and his immediate family, in the course of their 1MDB investigations.

This was revealed in a joint statement by the Singaporean Attorney-General's Chambers, Singapore Police Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore released today.

"In the course of the investigations, bank accounts belonging to various individuals have been seized and dealings in properties belonging to some of these individuals have been curtailed.

"The assets amount in total to S$240 million. Of these bank accounts and properties, about S$120 million belong to Low and his immediate family," they said.

Singapore has made a number of requests for information to countries where these funds originated from or were subsequently sent to, they said, adding that some of the requests are still being processed.

Several countries have likewise requested Singapore's assistance in the same matter, that is the questionable flow of funds suspected to have originated from 1MDB.

They have promptly acceded to all such requests, they said, in compliance with their international obligations.

Appropriate actions will be brought against those who have broken Singapore's laws, they added, pointing out that two individuals have so far been charged in Singapore for various offences related the investigations, while several others are still being investigated.

The Commercial Affairs Department has been investigating individuals suspected of committing offences in Singapore related to the questionable fund flows, while the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has been probing the financial institutions through which the funds flowed, for possible regulatory breaches and control lapses.

Complex web

MAS said its probe had revealed a "complex international web of transactions involving multiple entities and individuals operating in several jurisdictions," and that several financial institutions in Singapore were used as conduits for these transactions.

It said that these Singapore-based financial institutions had lapses and weaknesses in their anti-money laundering (AML) controls and action would be taken against them.

The financial institutions in their crosshairs are the BSI Bank Limited Singapore, DBS Bank Ltd, Standard Chartered Bank, UBS AG, Falcon Private Bank Limited, and Raffles Money Change (RMC).

MAS has completed its examination of BSI Bank and will withdraw its status as a merchant bank, in view of its serious breaches of AML requirements and poor management oversight and gross misconduct by some of the bank's staff, it said.

Meanwhile, MAS is finalising its assessments of DBS, Standard Chartered and UBS, though it said its preliminary findings show that there were instances of control failings in all three banks.

In some cases, there were also weaknesses in the processes for accepting clients and monitoring transactions, as well as undue delays in detecting and reporting suspicious transactions.

While these lapses were serious and will be met with firm action, MAS said that its probe did not reveal pervasive control weaknesses or staff misconduct within those banks, unlike BSI Bank.

MAS has also completed its onsite inspection of Falcon and found substantial breaches of AML regulations, including failure to adequately assess irregularities in account activities and to file suspicious transactions.

However, it said their supervisory examination of Falcon is still ongoing as the oversight and management of certain key client relationships were done out of the bank's headquarters in Switzerland.

As such, it is examining information obtained from the headquarters and has requested further details.

Weak management oversight

MAS has also completed its probe of RMC, saying it found weak management oversight, inadequate risk management practices and internal controls, and is finalising regulatory actions against RMC.

Its examination of certain other financial institutions are still ongoing, MAS said, adding that more details will be provided when the examinations are completed.

"MAS will take decisive regulatory actions against any financial institution that has breached regulations or failed to meet the expected AML standards," it said.

The US Department of Justice had earlier filed lawsuits in Los Angeles, seeking to seize assets located in US and abroad, including in the UK and Switzerland, as it alleged that the assets were involved in money laundering through 1MDB.

The assets include mansions, artwork, a private jet and gambling debt in Las Vegas casinos.

The lawsuit named Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's stepson Riza Aziz, family friend and businessman Low and two Abu Dhabi government officials, Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.

Najib was not named in the lawsuit.

In an immediate response to allegations, the Prime Minister's Office said the government would "fully cooperate with any lawful investigation of Malaysian companies or citizens in accordance with international protocol".

According to Najib's press secretary Tengku Sarifuddin Tengku Ahmad, the prime minister has always maintained that the law would be enforced, without exception, if any wrongdoing was proven.

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