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1MDB case: Swiss national first foreigner charged here

Swiss man faces 16 charges, including failure to report suspicious transactions

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

Jens Sturzenegger, the former branch manager of Falcon Private Bank, was charged with 16 counts yesterday, including "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$1.8 billion) into two accounts in 2013.

Sturzenegger, 42, was also accused of lying to the police and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) about his ties to tycoon Low Taek Jho.

Mr Low is accused by authorities around the world of being at the centre of alleged money laundering linked to 1MDB.

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

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

Falcon was shut down by regulators here last October. It was accused of "a persistent and severe lack of understanding" of the anti-money laundering regulations and fined $4.3 million.

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

He was charged with failing to report suspicious transactions relating to the US$378 million transferred on March 25, 2013, 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 the MAS about Mr Low's involvement with four Falcon accounts.

The Swiss 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 up to $1 million.

Sturzenegger's plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

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