July 31, 2020 / 10:43 AM / 10 days ago

Swiss court convicts banker for turning blind eye to 1MDB funds

FILE PHOTO: A general view of The Exchange 106 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/ Lim Huey Teng

ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss court has convicted a banker for failing to sound the alarm over millions of dollars linked to scandal-tainted Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

The Federal Criminal Court said on Friday it had found the banker guilty of violating requirements to report suspicious transactions and fined him 50,000 Swiss francs (41,957.2 pounds) plus court costs.

The ruling may be appealed.

The former anti-money-laundering executive at private bank Coutts & Co Ltd had denied any wrongdoing. Reuters is not naming him due to Swiss laws on privacy in court proceedings. Swiss markets watchdog FINMA in 2017 ordered Coutts to pay 6.5 million Swiss francs for breaching money-laundering regulations in its business linked to 1MDB, but dropped its own proceedings against the executive.

FINMA’s investigation found that between 2009 and 2015 assets worth $2.4 billion (1.8 billion pounds) moved through accounts at Coutts,which was founded in the 18th century and is best known asbanker to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

The Swiss indictment had detailed warnings from Coutts colleagues about transactions by Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman tied to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund, which was set up in 2009 by the government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In Malaysia, Najib was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in jail on Tuesday in the first trial over the multi-billion-dollar scandal at 1MDB that stretched to the Gulf states and Hollywood.

Low has denied any wrongdoing, saying in January that he acted only as an intermediary for deals involving 1MDB. U.S. justice officials estimate $4.5 billion was siphonedout of Malaysia by high-level fund officials and associates between 2009 and 2014, and laundered through countries including the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Gareth Jones

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