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Sunday, January 31, 2016

SWISS: $4 billion may have been misappropriated from state-owned companies in Malaysia

Switzerland's top prosecutor said $4 billion may have been misappropriated from state-owned companies in Malaysia.

$4 billion may have been misappropriated from state-owned companies in Malaysia

“We are very concerned,” Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber told The Wall Street Journal on Friday. “We have found evidence of suspicious money transfers linked to 1MDB going through Swiss financial institutions, and we believe that it is very important that it is shared with the Malaysian authorities.”

The investigation revealed indications that funds have been misappropriated and said it was looking into four cases of potential criminal conduct. It said some of the funds had been transferred to Swiss accounts held by former Malaysian public officials and current and former officials from the United Arab Emirates.

The comments represent the most detailed allegations yet of wrongdoing around 1MDB. The fund, set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to help strengthen the Southeast Asian country’s economy, also faces a continuing probe by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and had been the subject of several inquiries in Malaysia.

1MDB had made a statement that no contact has been made by any foreign investigative authority but stood ready to cooperate should the need arise. The Malaysian Prime Minister and United Arab Emirates' representatives couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Swiss authorities have spent five months investigating unnamed people tied to 1MDB over bribery of public officials, misconduct in public office and money laundering.

Officials worried, however, that Malaysia’s decision this week to halt an investigation into the transfer of $681 million into Mr. Najib’s private bank account after clearing him of wrongdoing could hamper their own probe.

On the back of the decision to halt an investigation into Mr. Najib's private bank account,  Malaysian Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali said he was ready to cooperate with the Swiss probe. “My office intends to take all possible steps to follow up and collaborate with our Swiss counterparts, and we look forward to receiving the findings of their investigations.”

In a statement, PetroSaudi said it wasn’t the subject of any investigation and hadn’t been accused of criminal conduct. The company denies any wrongdoing, it said.

A spokeswoman for Genting declined to comment. Tanjong didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Efforts to reach SRC and ADMIC were unsuccessful.

Swiss officials said they became interested in the activities around 1MDB due to concerns the country’s banking system may have been used for illegal activities.

In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that an earlier Malaysian probe found the funds had entered Mr. Najib’s account through banks including a Singapore branch of Zurich-based Falcon Private Bank AG, as well as other companies and entities linked to 1MDB.

Falcon hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing and has said it is cooperating with the investigation.

The Swiss said they have frozen tens of millions of dollars in assets at unspecified Swiss banks as part of their probe.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the investigation has focused on transactions made using Falcon, which is owned by an Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund that has done business with 1MDB. The fund hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

In its announcement Tuesday, the Malaysian attorney general’s office said it had no evidence that the Saudi donation to Mr. Najib “was given as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do anything in relation to his capacity as a Prime Minister.” All but $61 million of the money was eventually returned to the Saudis, Malaysian authorities said.

Following that announcement, the Swiss attorney general’s office said it contacted the Malaysians directly and asked for mutual assistance between the agencies to continue, and for evidence unearthed by the Swiss to be considered.

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