A Singaporean has asked why the nation’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), is still investigating the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case when the matter is already before the courts in Malaysia.
MAS was recently awarded the prestigious “Central Bank of the Year” title and “was praised for its anti-money laundering efforts and for taking action against financial institutions and individuals linked to the alleged theft of funds from the Malaysian state-owned development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad,” according to the Straits Times.
MAS has certainly implemented several anti-money laundering efforts and has enforced prosecutorial action against local banks and individuals implicated in the 1MDB scandal.
The central bank has shut down two banks and fined another eight banks believed to be involved in the scandal. Several individuals with links to the scandal have been convicted in court, while others have been banned from working in the finance sector.
In recent years, MAS has also enhanced its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) surveillance and has directed local financial institutions to strengthen their internal AML controls.
Besides this, the central bank has established a dedicated money-laundering unit, with a supervisory team that will monitor risks and carry out on-site inspections. This unit will be complemented by a new enforcement unit to investigate suspected violations.
One Singaporean, however, still has questions about MAS’ investigations pertaining to the 1MDB scandal.
Earlier, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Malaysian Authorities investigating the 1MDB scandal said that some US$681 million was allegedly channeled via the Singapore branch of a Swiss bank and was subsequently deposited in Najib Razak’s personal private banking Bank Account with AmBank Malaysia.
Noting that “Najib has publicly acknowledged the receipt of these funds and has returned the amount of US$620 million via the same bank account that he received the funds from in Singapore,” Prof Sattar Bawany – CEO of The Centre for Executive Education (CEE Global) – wrote directly to MAS and asked the following three questions:
Was MAS alerted through its own internal monitoring system or processes of a large number of funds (US$681 million) being transferred from the Singapore bank to the Malaysian bank account? If so why was the transfer not being prevented to prevent the transfer to an overseas bank account belonging to a “Politically Exposed Person (PEP) such as the former premier of Malaysia?
Out of the US$620 million being returned, how much money belonging to the 1MDB is currently being held by MAS or the proper authorities in Singapore? Have the monies been disbursed or transferred out to 3rd parties? If so to who and how much?
Why were the fraudulently obtained funds from 1MDB not returned to the Malaysian Government or the US DOJ which has instituted legal proceedings to recover these funds?
Prof Bawany said that MAS’ response to his questions were “not unexpected but regrettable.” Directing him to past media releases, MAS apparently replied:
“Regarding your questions on the 1MDB investigations, we have issued several media releases in the past.
“We seek your understanding that MAS’ supervisory dealings with banks are confidential. Investigations are also still ongoing in Singapore and in other countries. As such, we are unable to provide any further information to your questions.”
Noting that the case against Najib Razak is already before the Malaysian courts and that the DOJ has also commenced prosecutorial actions against those implicated in the 1MDB scandal, Prof Bawany asked:
“What else is MAS and Singapore authorities investigating? I sincerely hope that our MPs on both sides of the aisle would raise this matter in Parliament soon.“