Last week Sarawak Report connected the dots and concluded that the name of ‘Eric Tan’, the beneficial owner of several 1MDB related bank accounts, appeared to be merely an alias for the master-mind behind the thefts, Jho Low.
Now, the Singapore court has confirmed this suspicion, explaining that the Falcon Bank branch boss, Jans Sturzenegger, had confessed that Jho Low told him he used the identity on certain occasions ‘for security purposes‘. Sturzenegger was sentenced to 28 weeks jail and a fine for initially lying to the authorities and failing to report suspicious transactions, making him the first western banker to be convicted in this affair.
However, Sturzenegger is also reported as having claimed that he knew Eric Tan did actually exist, because he had been provided with a passport and a CV.
Anyone who has opened a bank account will know that somewhat more proof of identity than that is generally required to open an account – most particularly the would-be account holder needs to present themselves at the bank. In fact, Low had just impersonated Tan.
But, this matter now presses most on the Swiss side of the investigation. Sturzenegger, after all, was fairly far down the food chain at Falcon Bank and he was plainly carrying out his bosses’ orders. In particular, the CEO Eduardo Leemann, who first introduced ‘Eric Tan’ to Sturzenegger by email in January of 2012. The Singapore manager had not realised that his correspondent [email protected] was Jho Low until he met him the following month.
The same Swiss bosses then pressured Sturzenegger to pass some $1.2 billion through these 1MDB related accounts, even though he was fearful and suspicious it might be money-laundering. He knew he should have reported the enormous transactions.
A former Goldman Sachs senior executive before moving to Falcon, Leemann has in the past seen fit to lecture that there needs to be far less regulation of banks. We suggest that his conduct makes clear that the exact opposite is the case and the Swiss prosecutors should make him and his colleagues a powerful example.
Criminal proceedings against Falcon were announced in Swizerland on 13th October. Two days earlier the regulator FINMA had recommended charges against two of its former senior executives, which Sarawak Report speculated ought include Leemann.
Meanwhile, the enormous half billion dollar backhanders to the over-all Abu Dhabi Aabar boss, Khadem Al Quabaisi, becomes more explicable – he had put his sovereign wealth fund and its private bank at the disposal of Jho Low to launder money from 1MDB.
What the Singapore authorities need to answer more fully is how their own flagship bank, Standard Chartered also ended up running a bogus Eric Tan account on behalf of Jho Low, laundering hundreds of millions through the so-called Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners account.?
Why has Standard Chartered, by contrast, got off relatively lightly with a low key investigation and a modest fine – were they not equally culpable of funnelling hundreds of millions through an account run by a front?
That Tan was actually Low confirms the point made by Sarawak Report that someone who has stolen billions of dollars would be highly unlikely to trust the money in the hands of another. It was for this reason that it was obvious Low would not have put a genuine associate in control of these vast accounts.
However, Low was not the only player behind this sorry saga and there were others who likewise were anxious for their own assurances.
Sarawak Report has heard through very well-placed sources that there was therefore a check on the use of these accounts, which was that the actual signatory was not Jho nor Eric, but someone else. That signature was needed to authorise payments.
Sarawak Report has been told that this signatory was a woman with whom Jho Low was closely associated in the matter of 1MDB. So, when insiders informed us over a year ago that Rosmah Mansor had complained over Jho Low’s spending, exclaiming “It’s my money as well”, perhaps this is what they were referring to?