World

Swiss Expand 1MDB Probe to Two Former Emirati Fund Officials

Swiss authorities began investigations in 2015 tied to 1MDB for suspected corruption of public foreign officials, dishonest management of public interests and money laundering.

A construction worker talks on the phone in front of a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this February 3, 2016 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris/Files

A construction worker talks on the phone in front of a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this February 3, 2016 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris/Files

Zurich: Swiss authorities have expanded a criminal probe surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to include two former Emirati officials in charge of Abu Dhabi sovereign funds, Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said.

Swiss authorities began investigations in August tied to 1MDB for suspected corruption of public foreign officials, dishonest management of public interests and money laundering.

The inquiry has so far shown that about $4 billion appeared to have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies, Attorney General Michael Lauber said in January.

Swiss authorities are now looking into how 1MDB subsidiaries obtained a guarantee from an Abu Dhabi sovereign fund to repay bonds issued to finance investments in electric power plants, the OAG said in a statement on April 12.

The two former Emirati officials are under investigation for fraud, criminal mismanagement, misconduct in public office, forgery of a document, bribery of foreign public officials and money laundering, it added.

The statement did not name the two officials.

“The Swiss authorities have elements in hand allowing them to suspect that the amounts paid in connection with this guarantee were not returned to the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund that supported the commercial risk,” the OAG said.

“To the contrary, these funds would have benefited others, particularly two public officials concerned as well as a company related to the motion picture industry. A former 1MDB body already indicted in the Swiss proceedings has also benefited from these amounts.”

The Wall Street Journal has reported that investigators believe much of the funds used to make the 2013 Hollywood film The Wolf of Wall Street were diverted from 1MDB. 1MDB has denied the report.

The OAG also said it had issued two new requests for mutual legal assistance to Luxembourg and Singapore.

Wide-ranging security

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, International Petroleum Investment Co. (IPIC), and its subsidiary Aabar Investments PJS had said on April 11 that a firm with an almost identical name, Aabar Investments PJS Ltd., “was not an entity within either corporate group”.

The firm, registered in the British Virgin Islands, had received $3.5 billion from 1MDB, according to a Malaysian parliamentary committee report released on April 6.

Investigators in at least five nations in addition to Switzerland are scrutinising transactions connected with 1MDB in a wide-ranging money-laundering, fraud and corruption probe.

The Malaysian parliamentary report said 1MDB‘s senior management withheld crucial information from its executive board and made transactions without its knowledge or approval, resulting in debts amounting to about $11 billion. The 1MDB board collectively offered to resign following the report.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chairs 1MDB‘s advisory board, has been fending off allegations he was a beneficiary of 1MDB‘s funds after about $681 million was deposited into his personal bank account.

He denies wrongdoing and in January was cleared of any criminal offences by Malaysia’s attorney general.