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Falcon's ex-S'pore branch manager in the dock over 16 charges
SWISS national Jens Sturzenegger was on Thursday slapped with 16 charges relating to the movement of funds from scandal-riddled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The 42-year-old former Singapore branch manager at Falcon Bank is the first foreigner and fifth person to be charged in Singapore's ongoing high-profile money laundering probe into the tainted funds.
Sturzenegger, who appeared sombre-faced in the State Court yesterday, is accused of among other things, conniving or failing to disclose suspicious transactions totalling some US$1.3 billion and giving false information between July 2015 and October last year that were intended to cause enforcement officers (public servants) to omit to probe Low Taek Jho's involvement in several bank accounts managed by Falcon Bank. The latter is one of two Swiss private banks at the centre of Malaysia's protracted financial scandal.
While Sturzenegger is the first person from Falcon to be indicted, three other former private bankers from BSI Bank here have been charged and convicted.
Details in the latest charge sheets could pique interest as they provide a glimpse into alleged attempts to throw public officers here off the scent of Mr Low's alleged involvement in the 1MDB money trail. Better known as Jho Low, the once-savvy and high-flying financier with a penchant for the glitzy Hollywood life appears to have gone silent of late - his whereabouts remain the subject of intense speculation - even as his name is cropping up more and more of late in Singapore's court sessions and documents; Mr Low was also named in the United States' civil suit filed last year to seize US$1 billion of assets allegedly bought with funds siphoned out of 1MDB.
According to one charge faced by Sturzenegger, he allegedly instigated Falcon's compliance head in July 2015 to provide false information to a Monetary Authority of Singapore employee that Eric Tan Kim Loong was the beneficial owner of four accounts maintained at the bank when he in fact knew that the bank was dealing with Mr Low. Mr Tan has been described in previous court documents as a close associate of and proxy for many of Mr Low's financial arrangements.
Sturzenegger, who was already mentioned back in October last year by the MAS when it pulled Falcon's banking licence here for serious anti-money laundering lapses, also allegedly knew that Mr Low was using the email account firstname.lastname@example.org to communicate and give instructions to the bank in relation to the four accounts.
Another offence was said to have taken place in September last year when he falsely informed an officer of the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) that he had met Eric Tan on March 14, 2013 when he in fact had met Mr Low. Similarly, he is also accused of giving false information to the CAD officer that he had met Mr Tan on February 2, 2012 and Mr Tan had called him three days later when he had actually dealt with Mr Low on these occasions.
According to another charge, the Swiss national also falsely informed the CAD officer in September last year that he did not know that Mr Tan was connected to Mr Low and was not aware that Mr Low knew about the transactions executed in Mr Tan's accounts at Falcon. It was alleged that he was aware Mr Low was "orchestrating the transactions" in those accounts.
Sturzenegger's actions were intended to cause the public servants to "omit to probe" into Mr Low's involvement in the bank accounts and the connections between the accused and Mr Low, according to the charge sheets.
He is out on S$80,000 bail and is expected to plead guilty to some charges at the next session fixed for Jan 11 following an application made by his lawyer Tan Hee Joek in court on Thursday.