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Bruno Manser Fund takes Malaysian money-laundering case to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court

Bruno Manser Fund takes Malaysian money-laundering case to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona (picture) will have to decide on a complaint by the Bruno Manser Fund

(BELLINZONA, SWITZERLAND) Swiss NGO, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), and 255 citizens from the Malaysian state of Sabah are asking the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona to be admitted as private plaintiffs in an ongoing criminal case against Swiss bank UBS. The case has been opened by the Swiss Attorney General on 29 August 2012, following a criminal complaint by the Bruno Manser Fund. UBS is accused of having laundered over 90 million US dollars on behalf of Musa bin Aman, Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah, and his nominee Michael Chia.

Musa bin Aman is accused of having raised these funds illegally from local businessmen in return for granting logging concessions and timber export permits. The rainforests in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, located on the island of Borneo, are one of the world's biodiversity centers. They have been gravely damaged by excessive logging and the massive conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.

On 26 October 2012, the Swiss Attorney General ruled that BMF should be excluded from the ongoing UBS/Musa case as the NGO had not been directly damaged by the bank's laundering of Malaysian timber corruption proceeds through UBS accounts in Hong Kong, Singapore and Zurich.

"State failure" and "collusion" of Malaysia's highest authorities

In a complaint lodged last week by the Bruno Manser Fund against the Attorney General's decision, the NGO argues it should be admitted as a plaintiff to the case in order to represent 255 citizens from Sabah and the Malaysian public. The NGO's lawyers are arguing that the Malaysian authorities, who would have had the right to be heard in the case, are "incapable of action" in the matter due to "state failure" and "collusion" of the country's highest political representatives and its judiciary with the alleged money-launderers. Due to the authorities' failure to represent the interest of the Malaysian public, BMF and Malaysian citizens represented by the NGO should be admitted as plaintiffs to the case in order to guarantee fair procedures.

BMF's submission to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court underlines that Malaysia's de-facto law minister, Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, stated in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur that UBS customer and suspected money-launderer Michael Chia was carrying 13 million Singapore dollars in donations for Sabah UMNO, Malaysia's ruling party, and that Mr. Nazri's son is driving a car registered under the name of Michael Chia.

Furthermore, the Swiss court has been made aware of the fact that UBS customer and suspected money-launderer, Musa bin Aman, is the brother of the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anifah bin Aman, and that Musa's wife is a relative of the wife of Malaysia's Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail. "Therefore, Musa bin Aman is not only the dominant political player in Sabah but also enjoys protection from the highest political and judicial authorities in autocratically-ruled Malaysia", the complaint concludes.

It is expected that the Swiss court will decide on the admission of BMF and the private plaintiffs from Sabah to the case within two to three months.

Under Switzerland's tough anti-money-laundering laws, it is forbidden for Swiss companies to be involved in corruption and money-laundering in their worldwide operations. However, only rarely have companies been held responsible for such crimes.

(12 November 2012)

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