Swiss AG, Thomas spoke over mutual assistance on 1MDB probe

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by TMR file

SWISS federal prosecutors declined to comment whether they would visit Malaysia in the coming weeks to cooperate with local authorities in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) probe.

But the two countries have been in contact with the Swiss AG Michael Lauber and Malaysia AG Tommy Thomas having spoken to enhance the mutual cooperation.

Switzerland is among the leading countries that had acted swiftly to investigate banks linked to the state fund and the allegedly dubious money transfers.

But the Swiss authorities had not been able to get the cooperation from the previous Malaysian government despite making a formal request.

Investigation over 1MDB has gathered pace after the change in government after the May 9 general election, with the new administration promising to resolve the scandal and seek the cooperation of other countries.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said it was “very much interested” in renewing dialogue with Malaysia’s authorities to establish cooperation and coordination of the criminal investigations between partnering authorities. An OAG spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of a working visit to Malaysia in the next few weeks, in an email reply to The Malaysian Reserve recently.

The spokesperson said Lauber and Thomas had a phone call on June 14, 2018, to discuss about cooperation and the resumption of mutual legal assistance between the two countries.

Switzerland’s financial regulator had long sought mutual legal assistance from Putrajaya since it established the case against 1MDB in 2015.

Lauber has been critical of the lack of cooperation his team had received from the previous government.

The new Pakatan Harapan government, led by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has wasted no time to uncover the alleged embezzlement of billions of dollars at 1MDB.

Malaysia had pledged to cooperate with international investigations into the scandal-hit state fund as 1MDB is at the centre of money laundering probes in at least six different countries, including Switzerland, the US and Singapore.

In April last year, the Swiss AG said it had made progress in the 1MDB case despite Malaysian authorities’ refusal to cooperate. He attributed the advancement to assistance from Singapore, Luxembourg and the US.

It was reported that six persons are under investigation by the Swiss authority, besides two banks.

Bloomberg had reported that officials from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice had met with members of the 1MDB task force in mid-May to discuss the focus and direction of the probes.

Reuters recently reported that the US investigators have accelerated their probe into the sovereign wealth fund and are exchanging more evidence with Malaysian authorities.

Last week, the Monetary Authority of Singapore MD Ravi Menon said the city-state’s central bank has been in close contact with the local authorities and has met the 1MDB task force twice so far.

According to a statement from the special investigation team, discussions between Malaysia and Singapore revolved around the collection of evidence, identifying Singapore witnesses and mapping a money trail to detect funds and assets that still exist.

Singapore also pulled the shutter on two banks and filed charges on a few individuals related to failure to adhere to banking laws in relations to 1MDB.

Swiss authorities have not had a meeting with their Malaysian counterparts over the probe. The OAG has said they wanted to start talks as soon as possible to establish efficient cooperation and coordination of the criminal investigations.