Switzerland’s regulator has ruled on UBS’ involvement in 1MDB. The Swiss bank’s Singapore branch had dealt with corruption money from the Malaysian state fund.
Swiss regulator Finma hasn’t shied away from harsh punishments for Swiss banks which dealt with money allegedly pilfered from 1MDB or with Jho Low, thought by investigators to be the mastermind behind the billion-dollar illicit money trail.
Bern helped Singapore shut down both Banca della Svizzera Italiana, or BSI, as well as Falcon Private Bank in Singapore, and is conducting ongoing enforcement proceedings into unnamed bankers it believes were involved in catering to 1MDB.
The scandal was a big issue at Finma’s annual press conference earlier on Tuesday in Bern, when the regulator said money-laundering cases had more than doubled on the year.
Late in the day, Finma corrected its earlier statements with a crucial detail: a fourth in a total of seven cases relating to 1MDB have been concluded. One was only recently brought to an end, a spokesman for the regulator wrote in an email: that of UBS.
The good news for Switzerland’s biggest bank is that, like in Singapore, it won’t face any criminal charges. Finma said it didn’t uncover any systematic, grave violations in the 1MDB case, but had rebuked the bank in writing.
«Despite extensive, group-wide anti-money-laundering directives, the background of a key business relationship and the transactions it processed were not deemed appropriate,» Finma wrote in the email.
The regulator offered no explanation why it had not elaborated on its UBS findings earlier in the day, when it had spoken at length about the rise of money-laundering cases in Switzerland.
The ruling means that UBS has come away from 1MDB with little more than a black eye. Last October, UBS was found to found guilty of a whopping 13 breaches over 1MDB in Singapore and ordered to pay S$1.3 million, or roughly 1 million Swiss francs.
1MDB is a test case for Singapore as a relatively young financial center, but it also poses a larger conundrum: the city-state’s sovereign wealth fund GIC owns nearly 6.4 percent of UBS’ stock.
As a major shareholder of the bank, Singapore is at pains to strike a balance between heavy-handed enforcer of its financial center and major backer of the bank. Swiss and Singaporean regulators and prosecutors worked in lockstep on the 1MDB case last year.
UBS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.