- Switzerland prosecutes Falcon Private Bank, squeezes Najib’s inner circle
- DiCaprio camp speaks out on 1MDB Wolf of Wall Street funds
- Thailand’s new uncertainty
- Utusan Fails To Get Leave To Appeal, To Pay Anwar RM200,000 In Damages For Libel
Posted: 20 Oct 2016 12:38 AM PDT
By Rasa Sarwari – ASEAN TODAY (20 October 2016)
Corruption-hunting Swiss and Singaporean authorities are targeting banks connected to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) strategic development fund; recently bringing Falcon Private Bank into their sights. The outfit has something of a record, losing its banking license in Singapore only a day before due to regulatory mishandlings.
But as Falcon is forced to close its operations, several other 1MDB-linked banks are still allowed to take business and being let off with minor fines. In fact, of the banks that were fined by Singapore's monetary authority; UBS handed over $1.3 million SGD in punishment payments and DBS Group Holdings Ltd paid $1 million SGD. Falcon, meanwhile, paid $4.3 million SGD for their conduct.
Cracking down on banks
To catch-up on the foundations of the fall of Falcon, Malaysia's current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, was the chair of the 1MDB fund. The state-owned investment vehicle is now under investigation across six countries, including the US, Singapore, and Switzerland, where respective authorities are looking into money-laundering and corruption by Malaysian government officials. The allegations are they siphoned off billions of dollars.
In light of this, "regulators are increasingly willing to investigate and punish banks that don't properly vet their clients or where their money comes from" explains Patrick Emmenegger, a leading economist at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. He continues, "Singapore and Switzerland have made real inroads against the banks." For 1MDB's part, senior officials have denied wrongdoing and committed to work with the local authorities.
Banca della Svizzera Italiana (BSI) was the first Swiss bank investigated by Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) about the saga, but it seems attention has now clearly shifted to Falcon. This second private bank is owned by the Emirati International Petroleum Investment Co, based in Abu Dhabi, and its officials have also agreed to "cooperate with the OAG to help ensure a speedy resolution to the investigation". This is the latest development in a year-long investigation, but so far only four people face criminal charges.
Pressing Najib's inner circle
But can there be smoke without fire? Despite the Malaysian leader's continued pleas of ignorance of the matter, the OAG might be unintentionally building a case around him – simply by picking apart his former associates and financial partners. Swiss authorities are currently questioning Falcon about a $681 million USD "pass through" transaction from an anonymous account of a Malaysian businessman. Although the Swiss authorities are not releasing any details of where this money went, the $681million USD is the exact amount seen in Najib's personal account before Malaysia's 2013 general election. The beleaguered leader has stated he returned $620 million USD of what he says was a political donation, but the remaining $61 million USD is still unaccounted for.
Although the Swiss authorities are not releasing any details of where this money went, the $681million USD is the exact amount seen in Najib's personal account before Malaysia's 2013 general election. The beleaguered leader has stated he returned $620 million USD of what he says was a political donation, but the remaining $61 million USD is still unaccounted for.
Falcon have responded to the charges saying that "based on the findings of the regulators, Falcon Private Bank has initiated additional measures to prevent future issues." However, this will not stop FINMA from taking $2.56 million USD of illegal profits they have earned, as well as raising charges against two unnamed former Falcon official. Though Najib continues to cover his tracks and deny responsibility for the 1MDB scandal, his inner circle of banks and associates are facing criminal persecution from some of the highest international authorities. What will emerge next?
Posted: 20 Oct 2016 12:29 AM PDT
Bradley Hope- The Wall Street Journal (19 October 2016)
Representatives of Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio contacted the Justice Department in July immediately after the government alleged some money embezzled from a Malaysian government fund financed his film The Wolf of Wall Street, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
The comments are the first from DiCaprio's camp since the Justice Department filed civil forfeiture suits against luxury real estate, artwork and other assets purchased with allegedly stolen funds from 1Malaysia Development by a cast of characters including Malaysian financier Jho Low, who was a friend of DiCaprio's.
They also come in the wake of protests from Switzerland's Bruno Manser Fund, a rainforest charity, which called earlier this month for DiCaprio to explain his ties to the alleged fraud or step down from his position as a United Nations "Messenger of Peace for Climate Change".
DiCaprio's spokesman said the star was seeking to determine whether he or his charitable foundation had "received any gifts or charitable donations directly or indirectly related to these parties, and if so, to return those gifts or donations as soon as possible".
"Both DiCaprio and LDF (Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) continue to be entirely supportive of all efforts to assure that justice is done in this matter," the spokesman said. "DiCaprio is grateful for the lead and instruction of the government on how to accomplish this."
DiCaprio has been tangled in the 1MDB affair because of his association with Mr Low and others connected to the film, including Riza Aziz, co-founder of Red Granite Pictures and stepson of the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak.
DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese were interested in making The Wolf of Wall Street for years before Red Granite agreed to help invest in the risky R-rated project. DiCaprio's relationship with Mr Low and Mr Aziz grew from there.
Mr Aziz and Red Granite have denied any wrongdoing and said they believed the funding they received was from a legitimate business partner in the Middle East. Mr Najib has denied wrongdoing and been cleared of any crime by the Malaysian Attorney General. Mr Low and his representatives didn't respond to requests for comment and haven't publicly commented on the allegations.
The Justice Department's complaints refer to "Hollywood Actor 1," who is DiCaprio, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
On July 15, 2012 — a few months before The Wolf of Wall Street began filming — Mr Low withdrew $US1.15 million at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas and gambled with the Hollywood actor, the complaint says.
Red Granite's office is also in the same building as DiCaprio's Appian Way production company, and the actor and Red Granite executives were spotted together at parties across town.
In late 2012, Mr Low and Aziz, and others connected to the film, gave DiCaprio a unique birthday present: the Oscar statuette presented to Marlon Brando in 1955 for best actor in On the Waterfront. The statuette had been acquired for around $US600,000 through a New Jersey memorabilia dealer, according to sources.
The men also spent time together and with others on the world's fifth-largest yacht during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and were part of a New Year's celebration in 2012 that involved a party in Australia followed by a ride on a chartered 747 to Las Vegas to do the countdown a second time, the people said.
When the actor hosted a charity sale at auction house Christie's to support environmental causes in 2013, Mr Low allegedly used 1MDB funds to purchase two pieces of art by Mark Ryden and Ed Ruscha for a total of about $US1.08 million, according to the Justice Department complaint.
Mr Low also bought a home in the high-end Bird Streets area of Los Angeles very close to DiCaprio's home in the area.
While Mr DiCaprio and Mr Low were friends in the past, "they are no longer in contact and haven't spoken in a long time," according to a person close to DiCaprio.
Posted: 19 Oct 2016 11:53 PM PDT
Japan Times- by Joshua Kurlantzick (18/10/2016)
WASHINGTON – Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's death was long anticipated, but it still came as a profound shock to Thailand. When it was announced, vast crowds gathered in towns and cities to weep and pay homage to their monarch, who had reigned for seven decades.
Thailand's stock market has fluctuated, and the country has entered a period of uncertainty. Most Thais have never known any other king, and Bhumibol inspired great devotion during a time of enormous political and economic change. During his reign, Thailand was transformed from a poor country into Southeast Asia's second-largest economy.
Bhumibol was Thailand's most influential political figure, despite technically being a constitutional monarch like Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Absolute monarchy formally ended in 1932, and what remained of it was endangered by 1950, when Bhumibol was formally enthroned. But he worked tirelessly to restore the influence of the palace.
During his reign, royalists, in alliance with the military, rebuilt the monarchy's image. The king represented stability during a period of repeated coups and wars in Indochina, and the United States and other foreign powers embraced him. He exercised vast economic influence, with the Crown Property Bureau — reportedly worth more than $30 billion — controlling some of Thailand's most valuable real estate and other assets. And yet he created a reputation for supporting and protecting the poor.
In the absence of strong governance institutions, Bhumibol was often called in to manage domestic political disputes, most notably in 1992, when the military fired on tens of thousands of protesters who had gathered in Bangkok. The king summoned the Thai junta leader and the leader of the protest to his palace in the center of the city, and on live television both men prostrated themselves before him while he demanded an end to the bloodshed. The junta pulled back, a civilian government was installed, and by the 2000s Thailand seemed to be building a solid and stable democracy. The king was touted as a force for democratic change.
But as working-class Thais, who had tolerated military and technocratic rule for decades, came to embrace the kingdom's new democratic politics, they voted for populist parties that would shift political power away from the royal, military and political elites. Soon enough, Thailand's elites struck back, and the country's politics descended into a cycle of palace-endorsed coups, elected governments and violent street protests. Despite the threat of stiff jail sentences for lese majeste, Bhumibol increasingly drew criticism — on social media and occasionally even in public — after endorsing the 2006 coup.
Adding to the uncertainty after Bhumibol's death, Thailand's current military junta has said that the king's heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, will not immediately assume the throne, because he needs time to mourn. In the meantime, the monarchy will be managed by a regent, longtime Bhumibol ally and former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda.
Prem is a divisive figure. Although he oversaw a period of rapid economic growth as prime minister, many poor Thais dislike him, favoring populist parties linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister was also prime minister until she was ousted in a 2014 coup. Many Thais consider Prem an archenemy of Thaksin, whose own government was toppled by the military in 2006. To them, Prem represents elites who would deny Thais outside the capital a voice in determining the country's future. Moreover, at age 96, Prem may lack the stamina to manage the crown's transition.
There could be several reasons why Vajiralongkorn is not immediately assuming the crown. For starters, he may realize that he is nowhere near as popular as his father and needs time to build public goodwill. Alternatively, the junta (and Prem and other Bhumibol advisers) may have forced the crown prince's decision, because they fear his playboy reputation and reported friendship with Thaksin. Yet another explanation is that the junta is stalling so that it can maneuver Vajiralongkorn's sister, the beloved Princess Sirindhorn, into power instead, even though there is no constitutional basis in Thailand for a woman to reign.
Bhumibol's death further destabilizes an already unstable region. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is mired in a corruption scandal, while former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently founded a new political party that may ally itself with longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party, despite Mahathir having once purged Ibrahim from the government. Until national elections, Malaysian politics will likely get messier and potentially more repressive.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, in power since June, has sent shock waves across Southeast Asia by denouncing the U.S., inching closer to China and calling for the end to American-Philippine joint military exercises. Moreover, Duterte has launched a drug war that has brought on a wave of extrajudicial killings.
All Southeast Asian countries must balance their ties between China and the U.S. But Duterte's threat to realign the Philippines is sending up red flags in other countries involved in territorial disputes against China in the South China Sea, including Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Moreover, Duterte's wild public statements have unsettled the Philippine economy, leading other Southeast Asian countries to worry about spillover effects.
Thailand is scheduled to hold a national election next year, having approved a new constitution in August. Many Thais hoped that the upcoming vote would put the kingdom back on a path toward stability after more than a decade of political turmoil. But, given the uncertainty implied by Bhumibol's death, and the prospect of an unpopular crown prince eventually reigning, stability seems unlikely any time soon.
Posted: 19 Oct 2016 11:50 PM PDT
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd and its editor-in-chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Ishak will have to pay Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim RM200,000 in damages for defaming him in two articles relating to his BBC interview four years ago.
This is because the publisher of the Malay newspaper and Abdul Aziz failed to obtain leave to proceed with their appeal to the Federal Court, thus could not appeal against the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal in awarding damages to the former opposition leader.
The Federal Court three-man panel chaired by Justice Tan Sri Hasan Lah unanimously dismissed their application for leave to appeal and ordered them to pay RM10,000 in legal costs.
Justice Hasan said the court did not find any merit in the application. Presiding with him were Justices Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin and Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim.
Utusan Melayu’s counsel, Wan Azmir Wan Majid sought the court to give leave to appeal and proposed four legal questions for determination by the Federal Court relating to the issue of whether Anwar’s Sodomy II conviction could be used to reduce the quantum of damages in the defamation suit.
Lawyer Latheefa Koya, representing Anwar, said the court should not grant the application for leave to appeal as the issues raised were not novel and had been decided by the Federal Court.
Anwar, 69, sued Utusan Melayu and Abdul Aziz alleging that they had published two libellous articles against him on the front page and page 10 of the Utusan Malaysia newspaper, dated Jan 17, 2012, in relation to his BBC interview.
He won his claim against Utusan Melayu and Abdul Aziz who were subsequently ordered by the High Court on Oct 19, last year to pay him RM100,000 in general damages and another RM100,000 in aggravated damages.
They lost their appeal at the Court of Appeal on May 25, this year, prompting them to bring the matter to the Federal Court.
Anwar is serving a five-year jail term at the Sungai Buloh prison after the Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015 upheld his conviction and sentence for sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
Outside the court, Latheefa told reporters that it was the end of the road for Utusan Melayu and Abdul Aziz over the matter following the Federal Court’s decision to deny them leave to appeal. — Bernama
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