UBS and Malay officials face probe over illegal-logging money

April 23, 2012
Illegal-logging money probe of USB

UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, is facing money-laundering allegations following the disclosure of a series of documents linking Malaysian top politicians to secret UBS bank accounts in Hong Kong and Zurich.

According to Malaysian media reports, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) and Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have been tracing the flow of over USD90 million through UBS bank accounts in Hong Kong, which are alleged to be kickbacks for the illegal logging of tropical hardwoods in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo, one of the world’s most biodiverse habitats.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland confirmed on Friday that Switzerland has given legal assistance to Hong Kong in a money-laundering case against Musa Aman, who is the chief minister of Sabah. He is also the older brother of Malysia’s foreign minister, Anifah Aman.

In a statement to the Zurich-based weekly, Sonntagszeitung, spokespersons for the Attorney General and the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said that the files on the case have been transmitted to Hong Kong authorities on 31st March 2011. The officials added that Switzerland could not provide further details as the relevant enforcement agency in Hong Kong hat the lead in the investigation.

Prior to this latest disclosure, UBS was in the limelight over dodgy deals with Taib Mahmud, the notoriously corrupt Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. In 2004, the bank ran a USD350 million loan for the Taib government in Labuan, a Malaysian offshore finance centre. Taib Mahmud is currently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission.

UBS headquarters in Zurich refused to comment on the matter and said that, in all markets it was operating in, the bank complied with the regulatory and legal framework

In February 2007, the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei committed to protect the Borneo rainforest in the trilateral “Heart of Borneo” declaration.