Singapore's apex bank penalises StanChart, Coutts for breaches in money-laundering laws

Singapore's central bank, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), today said that it had imposed penalties on the local units of UK-based Standard Chartered Bank and Coutts for money laundering breaches related to Malaysia's scandal-tainted 1MDB fund.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), wholly owned by the Government of Malaysia, was set up to drive strategic initiatives for long-term economic development of the country by forging global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment.

1MDB has been involved in several high-profile projects such as the Tun Razak Exchange, its sister project Bandar Malaysia and the acquisition of three independent power producers.
The penalties of S$5.2 million ($3.65 million) on StanChart and S$2.4 million on Coutts, come as the latest punitive measure by the central bank in its crackdown on money laundering, after it ordered the closure of the local units of Swiss banks BSI and Falcon, earlier this year.

The inspection at Standard Chartered "revealed significant lapses in the bank's customer due diligence measures and controls for ongoing monitoring," the Monetary Authority of Singapore said.

While it found 28 breaches "serious'', the central bank found no instance of "wilful misconduct."

Standard Chartered said in a statement, that it was taking action to strengthen controls and surveillance systems.

"We regret that 1MDB-related transactions passed through Standard Chartered Bank Singapore from 2010 to early 2013," the statement said.

"We reported the suspicious transactions, both before and at the time we exited the accounts in early 2013, and have been fully cooperating with the authorities investigating this matter."
MAS is also set to issue a prohibition order against Tim Leissner, Goldman Sachs' former Southeast Asia chairman.

Goldman sent Leissner, its former chairman of Southeast Asia, on leave at the start of this year after it came to know that he had written a reference letter on behalf of Jho Low, the Malaysian financier who US authorities had named as a key figure in the scandal around Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice alleged that over $3 billion had been siphoned out of the fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd, and had gone into real estate, Hollywood movies and other assets.

The suit alleged that Low had benefited from some of the stolen money. The 1MDB fund, meanwhile has denied any wrongdoing.