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Singapore authorities seize large number of bank accounts amid 1MDB probe

Since the middle of last year, the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been actively investigating possible money-laundering and other offences carried out in Singapore, they said in a joint statement.

SINGAPORE: The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have seized a "large number" of bank accounts in relation to a probe into troubled Malaysian state fund 1MDB, both said in a joint statement on Monday (Feb 1).

Their statement, issued in response to media queries, is as follows: 

“Singapore does not tolerate the use of its financial system as a refuge or conduit for illicit funds. Since the middle of last year, the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been actively investigating possible money-laundering and other offences carried out in Singapore. In connection with these investigations, we have sought and are continuing to seek information from several financial institutions, are interviewing various individuals, and have seized a large number of bank accounts.

Singapore is also cooperating closely with relevant authorities, including those in Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States. We have responded to all foreign requests for information and have requested for information from relevant counterparts to aid in our investigations. As investigations are still ongoing, we are not able to provide more details at this stage.”

In response to the MAS and CAD announcement, 1MDB issued a statement on Monday night saying it has not been contacted by any foreign legal authorities on any matters relating to the company. "1MDB remains committed to fully cooperating with any lawful authority and investigation, subject to advice from the relevant domestic lawful authorities, and in accordance with international protocols governing such matters," it said.

Last year, Singapore authorities said they had frozen at least two bank accounts of individuals believed to be linked to 1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by the Malaysian Prime Minister. However 1MDB said in September 2015 that none of its bank accounts had been frozen by either Swiss or Singapore authorities. 

On Jan 30, Swiss authorities said they would hand a formal request for assistance on 1MDB "in the coming days". This comes after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was cleared of any wrongdoing with regard to RM2.6 billion (US$607 million) worth of donations that were channelled into his bank accounts. 

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency had been investigating the donation into Mr Najib's accounts, and also in relation to SRC International, a former subsidiary of the state fund. 

On Sunday Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi questioned why the Swiss Attorney-General publicly issued a statement instead of going straight to his Malaysian counterpart.

“By making a public statement, in my opinion, it is not good because it not only strains ties between the two countries, but also creates bias in media reports,” DPM Zahid said, adding that such information should have been conveyed through government-to-government channels.

A spokesperson for Switzerland's Office of Attorney-General (OAG) said "as a law enforcement body and judicial authority, the OAG has not to comment on political statements". He added that the OAG notes Malaysia's commitment to fully support Switzerland’s request for mutual assistance.