Swiss banker latest conviction in Singapore's 1MDB-linked cases

By Andrea Tan

Skyline of Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia. Photo / 123RF
Skyline of Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia. Photo / 123RF

Jens Sturzenegger, a former branch manager at Falcon Private Bank in Singapore, became the first foreigner convicted in the city's probes linked to a Malaysian state investment fund.

Sturzenegger, 42, pleaded guilty to six charges, including failing to report suspicious transactions, and was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail and fined S$128,000 ($89,000). Prosecutors had sought a jail term of as long as 32 weeks.

His lawyer Tan Hee Joek said in court that Sturzenegger is remorseful and didn't gain financially from the offences. Tan said after the hearing his client won't appeal the sentence.

The Swiss had been charged with 16 counts, including not reporting to the authorities that $1.27 billion of inflows into two bank accounts were suspicious and denying knowing Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho.

He's the fifth person to be indicted in Singapore as the city widens its investigation into fund flows related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Sturzenegger engaged in "persistent, deceitful conduct in lying" to authorities, said Judge Ow Yong Tuck Leong.

Convicted Bankers

Falcon Private Bank was ordered shut by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in October and Sturzenegger was arrested as part of the city's biggest money laundering probe.

Singapore has fined some of the world's largest banks and convicted bankers after breaches were discovered in a money trail linked to 1MDB.

Three former BSI SA employees have been convicted in cases linked to the Malaysian fund.

Yeo Jiawei was sentenced on Dec. 22 to a 30-month jail term, the longest yet handed down by the city's courts in 1MDB-related cases.

His lawyer Philip Fong said Yeo will appeal. Yak Yew Chee was sentenced in November to an 18-week jail term and fined for forging documents and failing to disclose suspicious transactions allegedly related to Low.

Another banker, Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, was jailed for two weeks and fined on Dec. 16 for similar offences. Yak and Seah didn't file appeals, according to their lawyers.

The Malaysian fund, which has consistently denied any wrongdoing, is at the center of multiple probes across the globe. Low hasn't been charged with any offense and has previously described his role with 1MDB as informal consulting that didn't break any laws.

The criminal case is Public Prosecutor v Jens Fred Sturzenegger, Singapore State Courts.

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