Singapore slaps 16 charges on Falcon Bank branch manager amid 1MDB probe


SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore prosecutors on Thursday filed 16 charges against the local branch manager of Swiss-based Falcon Private Bank AG, as part of an ongoing investigation tied to the scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

The bank, which is also being investigated in its home country, was the second Swiss lender whose Singaporean unit was ordered to cease operations last year after BSI Bank Ltd.

The investigations come as the city-state tries to rebuild its reputation as a clean financial centre after the 1MDB scandal dented its image.

1MDB was founded by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chaired its advisory board. It is currently the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said Malaysia will cooperate with the international investigations.

On Thursday, Singapore prosecutors filed 10 charges of giving false information, five charges of failing to disclose suspicious information and one charge of failing to submit suspicious transactions against Jens Sturzenegger, who headed the local unit of Falcon, which is owned by Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co PJSC.

The Swiss national who was arrested in October, intends to plead guilty, his lawyer Tan Hee Joek from Tan See Swan & Co told the court. It was not immediately clear on which charges he would plead guilty. A hearing is set for Jan. 11.

Singapore last year jailed three ex-BSI bankers, seized assets and sanctioned several banks in what has become its biggest crackdown on money laundering.

The island-state has called the 1MDB-linked investigation the most complex, sophisticated and largest money laundering case they have handled.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Christopher Cushing)