Singapore

MAS fines StanChart, Coutts millions

Breaches linked to 1MDB saga, MAS also looks to bar Goldman's ex-director

The local branches of Standard Chartered Bank and Coutts & Co have been fined $5.2 million and $2.4 million respectively for money-laundering lapses related to the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

These are the latest sanctions handed down by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) related to the case in which several banks based here were used to move funds illicitly.

MAS also plans to ban former Goldman Sachs top banker Tim Leissner from its securities industry for 10 years.

Earlier this year, MAS withdrew banking licences of Falcon Private Bank and BSI SA's Singapore units and fined UBS Group and DBS Group $1.3 million and $1 million, respectively.

Mr Ravi Menon, MAS managing director, said: "These actions send a strong signal that we will not tolerate the abuse of Singapore's financial system."

Mr Leissner, who helped raise more than US$6 billion (S$8.5 billion) for 1MDB with three bond sales, in 2012 and 2013, has been singled out for issuing an unauthorised reference letter that vouched for Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho and his family.

Mr Leissner's statements that there were no money laundering concerns were false, and made without the bank's knowledge or consent, MAS said.

A director of Goldman Singapore till September 2011, Mr Leissner moved to Hong Kong in November 2011 but maintained his representative status with the Singapore office until he resigned in February this year.

He must therefore meet MAS requirements to be fit and proper to carry out regulated activities.

But MAS said it is working with foreign counterparts to examine Goldman's role in the bond transactions.

The bank yesterday said it took prompt steps to part ways with him after discovering the violations and reported to authorities in several jurisdictions.

Mr Leissner was subpoenaed by the US Justice Department in March as part of its 1MDB probe.

StanChart was fined $5.2 million for 28 regulatory breaches but MAS had not found pervasive control weaknesses or wilful misconduct.

It expressed regret "that 1MDB-related transactions passed through its Singapore accounts from 2010 to early 2013".

The suspicious transactions were reported to authorities before StanChart closed the accounts in early 2013, and disciplinary action taken against individual employees.

Transfers totalling US$636 million were sent in 2012 from a Swiss bank account to a StanChart account here held in the name of Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, a firm owned by Mr Low's associate Eric Tan Kim Loong, US prosecutors alleged earlier.

Coutts was fined $2.4 million for 24 breaches including "failing to meet due diligence requirements for politically-exposed persons".

These lapses were the result of "actions or omissions" of some employees, including Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah, who left Coutts to join BSI bank in Singapore in 2009.

Yak pleaded guilty last month to four of seven counts of forging documents and failing to report suspicious transactions. He was jailed for 18 weeks and fined $24,000.

Seah faces seven similar counts.

Banker had jet-set lifestyle with glamorous wife

The banker facing a 10-year ban from working in the securities industry here over his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal was a star deal-maker for Goldman Sachs who lived the high-life with his model wife.

Tim Leissner, who was based here as the firm's South-east Asia chairman, joined Goldman Sachs in 1998 and was made the head of investment banking here in 2002.

Colleagues told the Financial Times that he worked hard, partied hard and boasted high-profile connections.

By 2009, he was helping to score billion-dollar deals with state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

By 2014, Mr Leissner had become Goldman's first South-east Asia chairman, based in Hong Kong.

He reportedly met his wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, 41, on a flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur.

It began with an argument and ended with a marriage proposal, according to an interview in the Wall Street Journal.

She was previously married to the American media mogul Russell Simmons, who co-founded hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings.

The couple have a one-year old son, Wolfe.

Ms Lee Simmons' social media accounts chronicle their jet-set life, including yacht trips in the Caribbean. In snapshots posted to Twitter, she is seen with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife.

After the 1MDB scandal broke, Goldman Sachs found Mr Leissner had allegedly violated company policies. He went on personal leave and resigned in February.

While he was on leave, the family moved to Los Angeles, where he has a 9,405 sq ft house with seven bedrooms, a gym, tennis court and a guest house, Bloomberg reported.

US investigators subpoenaed him in February. - RUPALI KAREKAR, THE STRAITS TIMES

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