ZURICH — March 15, 2018: Switzerland’s parliament rejected today a bid to amend the law handling ill-gotten
bank profits seized by authorities that had aimed to return more than $100 million linked to scandal-hit sovereign fund 1MDB to the Malaysian people.
Champions of the campaign had acknowledged they faced an uphill struggle to get the idea through parliament, whose lower house shot the plan down at the request of the government.
Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told lawmakers the measure was too broad and violated the separation of powers between the government and the courts, adding that current law allows repatriation of assets seized from toppled regimes.
He cited an accord signed with the World Bank in December under which Switzerland would return to Nigeria about $321 million in assets seized from the family of former military ruler Sani Abacha.
Confiscated bank profits from dubious deals are a different story. Normally they flow into the general Swiss budget.
The Swiss campaign led by centre-left politician Carlo Sommaruga and non-governmental organisations wanted to hand back more than $100 million money forfeited by Swiss banks in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case.
A total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to civil
lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The scandal has triggered money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including Switzerland, the United States
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak set up 1MDB in 2009 and previously served as chairman of its advisory board. He and the fund have denied any wrongdoing.
Financial watchdog FINMA has confiscated 104 million Swiss francs ($110 million) in illicit profits from 1MDB-related deals by banks BSI, Falcon Private Bank and Coutts & Co since mid-2016. The BSI and Falcon cases are still under appeal.
1MDB said yesterday the 104 million francs is being claimed by banks whom FINMA targeted for alleged breach of Swiss laws. “It cannot be claimed by 1MDB or the government of Malaysia as the money does not belong to 1MDB,” it said.
Activists had said Switzerland could set an international precedent on how to handle confiscated assets from the 1MDB scandal, such as a luxury yacht seized in Bali last month that Indonesia is handing over to U.S. authorities.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said justice and common sense has prevailed over fake news and biased reporting on 1MDB.
He said a motion submitted by Swiss Member of Parliament (MP), Carlo Sommaruga, today was debated in the Swiss National Assembly and opposition leaders Lim Kit Siang and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and certain Malaysian online media portals and so-called independent non-governmental organisations (NGO) leaders, such as Cynthia Gabriel of C4, shamelessly tried to spread fake news by linking the motion to 1MDB.
“Their perfidy even extended to letters being written to Swiss MPs and representatives of the Malaysian NGOs taking a junket to Switzerland, to lobby Swiss MPs to support the motion.
Salleh said the position of 1MDB and the Ministry of Finance has been very clear and the motion is a concern only for the Swiss government, Swiss Parliament and Swiss courts.
“It has nothing to do with 1MDB as the monies being sought by the opposition do not belong to 1MDB,” he said. — Reuters