The central bank of Singapore ordered Swiss bank BSI SA’s local branch to shut down amid an investigation connected to the embattled Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). In a statement released Tuesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said it referred the names of senior BSI officials to prosecutors to find out whether they committed criminal offences.
“The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced today that it has served BSI Bank Limited (BSI Bank) notice of intention to withdraw its status as a merchant bank in Singapore for serious breaches of anti-money laundering requirements, poor management oversight of the bank’s operations, and gross misconduct by some of the bank’s staff,” the regulator said in the statement.
This is the first time in 32 years that Singapore’s central bank withdrew a license from a merchant bank, according to the statement. In 1984, the bank had cancelled the license of a merchant bank, Jardine Fleming, after finding “serious lapses” in its advisory work.
Two Singaporean executives of the private BSI Bank are already facing charges in Singapore. In March, former senior vice president at BSI Singapore Yak Yew Chee quit the bank amid a criminal probe against him on money-laundering charges associated with 1MDB.
In a declaration to BSI, Yak insisted he did not receive unlawful benefits from managing the 1MDB account. According to legal documents, Yak was on unpaid leave for five months last year as the Switzerland bank launched its own probe against him for alleged misconduct related to client accounts.
1MDB has been at the center of money laundering and corruption allegations since last July, when hundreds of millions of dollars were tracked to the personal bank accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Allegations against Najib were first made in a July 2015 report by the Wall Street Journal, which said that investigators traced the money originating from an account at Falcon Private Bank in Singapore to accounts in Malaysia. Najib has consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing.
Apart from Singapore, investigations into the fund's finances also have been reportedly opened in Malaysia, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and the United States.