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MAS bans star dealmaker, fines SCB, Coutts over 1MDB

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has slapped a ban on an ex-Goldman Sachs banker while Standard Chartered and Coutts have been hit with record fines for their roles in Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal.

In a statement on Friday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said Tim Leissner, the former star dealmaker for Goldman Sachs in Southeast Asia, faces a 10-year ban from Singapore’s financial services industry over an unauthorised reference letter that vouched for Jho Low.

Low, a Malaysian businessman at the centre of a US investigation into global corruption, is accused of siphoning off $529m from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund to finance his own lavish lifestyle.

The billionaire friend of Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, gained notoriety as a tabloid party boy in London and New York for extravagant purchases including a $33.5m condominium in Manhattan.

Swiss authorities allege that up to $4.8bn was diverted from companies linked to 1MDB, although Low and Razak have repeatedly denied claims of any wrongdoing despite $681m being transferred into the prime minister’s personal bank account.

SCB and Coutts fined

Standard Chartered Bank and Coutts have been fined S$5.2m ($3.65m) and S$2.4m respectively, for breaches of AML regulations regarding 1MDB-related fund flows, said the MAS.

In 2012, transfers totalling $636m from a Swiss bank account to a Standard Chartered account in Singapore, allegedly linked to an associate of Low.

Despite this, the MAS said that while those regulatory breaches were serious, it had not found “pervasive control weaknesses” or “wilful misconduct” at the bank.

Coutts’s fine was mainly for failing to meet due diligence requirements for politically exposed persons.

Falcon shut down

Goldman Sachs is not accused of any wrongdoing by the Singapore regulator, which in October shut down the Swiss-headquartered Falcon Private Bank for serious failures in AML controls related to the scandal.

However, MAS has confirmed that it is examining Goldman Sachs’ role in 1MDB bond transactions, after the bank earned a $300m fee for a 2013 bond deal, which raised $3bn for the sovereign wealth fund.

Other banks in the firing line include DBS and UBS.

Ex-BSI banker jailed.

Last month, a former senior vice president at another Swiss bank, BSI, was jailed for 18 weeks in Singapore for forging reference letters vouching for the Low family and two charges of turning a blind eye to hefty sums – allegedly proceeds from criminal conduct – funnelled through the bank.

Yak Yew Chee, who worked as a senior vice president at BSI Singapore, was also a private banker for Jho Low.

Part of the Mark Allen Group.