Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Trump’s Currency Complaints Hit Unexpected Targets

February 17, 2017

Top-five trading partners China, Japan and Germany brush them off; Taiwan and Switzerland seem to be paying heed

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Feb. 17, 2017 3:47 a.m. ET

HONG KONG—U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusations of currency manipulation appear to be reaching an audience he may not have primarily intended.

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies,…

Mr. Trump vowed on the campaign trail to revive American manufacturing, in part by taking a hard line on Chinese trade practices and labeling the country a currency manipulator. Since taking office, the president has accused both China and Japan of consistently devaluing their currencies , while his top trade adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of benefiting from what he termed the “grossly undervalued” euro .

All three countries, which rank among the U.S.’s top five trading partners, have brushed off the Trump administration’s claims.

“No one has the right to tell us that the yen is weak,” Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso told parliament on Wednesday, following last weekend’s meeting between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe . Japan hasn’t directly intervened in currency markets since 2011 following a major tsunami and resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The charge that Germany exploits the U.S. and other countries with an undervalued currency is more than absurd,” Jens Weidmann , the president of the German central bank, said earlier this month.

China hasn’t directly commented on Mr. Trump’s criticisms, but most analysts say Beijing recently has been propping up the yuan by selling foreign-currency reserves rather than looking to weaken it.

Still, some smaller economies look like they are taking notice, notably Taiwan and Switzerland. The U.S. Treasury found in October that both had engaged in persistent, one-way currency intervention, essentially by buying foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and selling their own to maintain weak exchange rates.

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Analysts say the central banks of Switzerland and Taiwan are now stepping back from those activities, perhaps to avoid closer scrutiny from the Trump administration. The upshot: The Swiss franc has advanced nearly 2% against the U.S. dollar this year, while the new Taiwan dollar has surged 5.3%. Both have outperformed the euro and yen since the U.S. election in early November.

Taiwan’s central bank bought $500 million in foreign currencies in the fourth quarter, well below its quarterly average of more than $3 billion since 2012, according to Khoon Goh , head of Asia research at ANZ in Singapore, who said he suspects it is stepping back from “currency-smoothing operations.” The central bank said it doesn’t comment on currency policy.

For the first nine months of last year, the Swiss National Bank /quotes/zigman/1379668/delayed CH:SNBN +0.12% intervened heavily in currency markets to slow the franc’s rise, spending an amount roughly equivalent to its current-account surplus for the period, J.P. Morgan/quotes/zigman/272085/composite JPM -0.76% analysts note. Over the following four months, the scale dropped to around two-thirds of the surplus.

“It’s not an entirely fanciful suggestion that the SNB might be tapering intervention in order to the guard against the risk of being cited by the U.S. Treasury as a currency manipulator,” the analysts wrote in a note.

The Swiss National Bank declined to comment.

For the U.S. to label an economy a currency manipulator under the current law, it must have a large trade surplus with the U.S. and a hefty current-account surplus and persistently intervene in the currency in one direction. As of October, no economies met all three criteria.

Recent comments from officials in South Korea, which the Treasury has flagged for its hefty trade surplus with the U.S. and its current-account surplus, suggest they’re similarly eager to avoid U.S. ire, says Govinda Finn , senior analyst at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh. The Korean won has surged 5.2% against the dollar this year.

But any gains in the Korean and Taiwanese currencies due to U.S. political pressure may not last, he said: “On a longer-term horizon, there’s a pretty strong case to say both of those currencies can and will weaken as the authorities look to support their economies.”

Jenny W. Hsu contributed to this article.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at saumya.vaishampayan@wsj.com

A Chinese province has admitted to falsifying economic data — Official government reports up to 23 Percent larger than reality

January 19, 2017
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Staff writers — News Corp Australia Network

CHINESE economic figures have been inflated by as much as 23 per cent as allegedly corrupt officials sought to advance their careers.

According to the South China Morning Post, considered China’s ‘rust belt’, Liaoning province, confirmed fears that some of its economic figures, including fiscal revenue, were fictionally boosted.

The revelation throws new doubt onto the accuracy of China’s economic data days out from the release of the country’s full-year growth report. Both country and city governments were involved in the alleged fraud between 2011 and 2014 in the northwest region.

Officials in Liaoning province have been accused of falsifying economic data. Picture: AP

Officials in Liaoning province have been accused of falsifying economic data. Picture: APSource:AP

State-run media, People’s Daily said income was inflated by as much as 23 per cent.

“Many cities and counties in Liaoning reported fraudulent economic figures,” governor Chen Qiufa told the provincial legislature, citing a document from the National Audit Office.

“The fake fiscal figures influenced the central government’s economic judgment and accordingly led to a lowering of the size of transfer payments to the province.”

Chen also said the data was invented because officials were craving career advancement.

The region subsequently recorded a double digit decline in government income in 2015.

Economic data in China northeast Liaoning province has been falsely inflated by as much as 23 per cent. Picture: AP

Economic data in China northeast Liaoning province has been falsely inflated by as much as 23 per cent. Picture: APSource:AP

The fake data also meant that local residents were hit with a greater tax burden in the region.

Falsifying figures was a widespread practice in China, Beijing Institute of Technology economics professor Hu Xingdou said.

“It’s good that Liaoning has admitted to it but that won’t be enough to solve it fundamentally,” Hu told the South China Morning Post.

The Chinese government itself appears to accept there are errors in the reporting of economic data. Last year the chief of the country’s National Bureau of Statistics issued a warning about the falsification of data in People’s Daily.

The development comes after a United Nations report said Asia’s economic outlook for 2017 is strong despite slowing global growth due to sluggish international trade and investment.

The world economy grew 2.2 percent in 2016, the slowest pace since the end of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Most economies in East Asia and South Asia, led by China and India, saw robust growth driven by strong expansion of domestic demand,” the report said.

China's President Xi Jinping after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: AP

China’s President Xi Jinping after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: APSource:AP

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China is making progress in shifting from export-oriented growth to tapping domestic demand, the report said. It estimated the Chinese economy grew 6.6 percent in 2016, despite a 6.8 percent contraction in exports for the year, as reported by the government.

Services are growing in importance in China, says Sompob Manarangsan, an economics professor at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University. “There’s still quite some room for China to further develop by using their own domestic demand,” he said.

US Presdient-elect Donald Trump has railed against existing free-trade agreements and threatened to impose punitive tariffs on some imports at a time when Asian economies have been gradually committing to wider opening of their own markets.

Sompob said China looked set to counter protectionist moves, given its stake in global trade.

“You see Xi Jingping, the president of China, going to join Davos to show how much he supports the market-based economy,” Sompob said, referring to an annual World Economic Forum gathering of global political and economic leaders being held in Switzerland this week. “China from now on is going to perform against what Donald Trump is going to do.”

http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/world-economy/a-chinese-province-has-admitted-to-inflating-its-fiscal-income-by-up-to-23-per-cent/news-story/12df0fa07492e7e569fa174a332a9101

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Davos: John Kerry claims Trump administration will only last a year or two as he vows that globalization will make a comeback — Failed Obama Presidency Comes To A Close

January 18, 2017

John Kerry says the Trump administration could do ‘irreparable damage’ to America’s reputation and economy – but suggested his time in office will only last ‘a year or two’.

John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last 'a year, two years'

John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last ‘a year, two years’

  •  John Kerry spoke at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland 
  •  He said Trump’s protectionist stance would ‘injure our own credibility’
  •  ‘It will hurt for the endurance of a year, two years, whatever, while the [Trump]  administration is there,’ he added 
  •  Kerry is due to hand over to controversial pick Rex Tillerson, ex-CEO of Exxon 

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry says the Trump administration could do ‘irreparable damage’ to America’s reputation and economy – but suggested his time in office will only last ‘a year or two’.

Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the president-elect’s plans were ‘dangerous’ and will ‘injure’ the credibility of the United States

He also delivered a stark warning of the dangers of economic populism, but insisted globalization would make a comeback in the future.

The speech is one of the last Kerry will make before he his replaced by Trump’s secretary of state pick, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

 

John Kerry Says Trump administration will last A Year — Two Years

Speaking at an event moderated by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Kerry said of Trump’s protectionist, anti-globalization program: ‘We’ll have injured our own credibility in… an irreparable way. Not irreparably. There’s time, and that’s just too dramatic.

‘But we will have done great injury to ourselves. And it will hurt for the endurance of a year, two years, whatever, while the [Trump] administration is there.’

Kerry said: ‘It’s really dangerous to play to the lowest common denominator of American, of global political life.’

Trump won November’s White House race having pledged to return ‘American jobs’ from production plants in China and Mexico, and the incoming leader has threatened to tear up trade deals.

This week Trump also declared the NATO strategic alliance ‘obsolete’ while praising Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, predicting other members would follow suit.

Kerry admitted that ‘certain people in political life’ have tapped into legitimate anxieties about job insecurity in a globalized economy of free trade and capital flows.

Donald Trump won the White House by pledging to return 'American jobs' from production plants in China and Mexico, and threatening to tear up trade deals

Donald Trump won the White House by pledging to return ‘American jobs’ from production plants in China and Mexico, and threatening to tear up trade deals

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But he insisted automation rather than a shift toward foreign labor was what has hit the US workforce and argued that trade would help power the growth needed to bring new jobs.

Kerry also defended NATO and the European Union as guarantors of stability in a continent once wracked by war.

‘I don’t know where the new administration is going,’ he said, of the new White House team that will replace President Barack Obama’s administration on Friday.

‘But my message, friends in Europe… is that Europe has got to believe in itself,’ Kerry said.

‘Europe needs to recognize it that the reason people came together was not just economic, in fact it was not just principally economic. It was to stop Europeans from killing Europeans,’ he said, a reference to the First and Second World Wars.

Kerry argued that far from inheriting the enfeebled US economy Trump described in his campaign rhetoric, the real estate tycoon turned politician would enter office ‘with the wind at his back.’

This could be put at risk by a disengagement from the world economy in the name of protecting US jobs.

‘Now obviously the new president is tapped into the anger,’ Kerry admitted.

‘But has he seen the way in which this can be solved that doesn’t undo economic opportunities and doesn’t create more barriers and more turmoil?’

Kerry’s stance was echoed by China’s President Xi Jinping – who addressed the Davos forum yesterday.

Xi told attendees there was ‘no point’ in blaming economic globalization for the world’s problems and no-one would win a trans-Pacific trade war.

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4128912/John-Kerry-defends-global-trade-against-populist-anger.html#ixzz4W7Mw07ts
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John Kerry and Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, met Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. Credit Dominick Reuter, Agence France-Presse, Getty Image

John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in 2013. AP photo

Kerry and Lavrov in happier times.

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White Helmet rescue workers try to find children buried in the wrechage of Aleppos by Russian and Syrian Bombing — after the Obama Adminstration withdrew from the Middle East.

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John KerrySecretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at The U.S. Department of State. CREDIT: 2016 GETTY IMAGES/2016 GETTY IMAGES

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 (From the BBC)

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The Obama presidency that never was

The Obama presidency that never was
© Getty Images

“Hope” and “change.”

Those were the words that propelled Barack Obama—a first-term, backbench United States senator from Illinois whose only name recognition came from a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention—from the hustings in small towns across Iowa to the White House.

Eight years later Obama’s presidency ends with the magic that once surrounded his candidacy and subsequent election long gone.

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In the end, however, Obama may go down in the annals of presidential history as an asterisk—the country’s first black president. Nothing more.

That’s because much of Obama’s record will be erased by Donald Trump, his successor as the forty-fifth president of the United States, and the Republican majority in both houses of Congress.

It may take a while, but the GOP will eventually repeal Obamacare and the litany of other laws and administrative regulations that make up the Obama record.

Obama’s poll numbers—54 percent of Americans approve of him, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls—have recovered from the low point of his presidency following the enactment of Obamacare, when Lucifer probably had a better approval rating.

Nevertheless, his fall from grace is remarkable. Especially when you consider this was the president who was viewed by many on the political left as their messiah.

Yet it wasn’t just the Democratic base that had lofty expectations.

Running against Sen. John McCain, whose selection of an incompetent and grossly under-qualified running mate was a mortal blow to his candidacy, Obama appealed to many Republicans and GOP-inclined voters who thought he could heal divisions and bring Americans together. These were the Obamacons.

I didn’t vote for Obama, but I came darn close to doing so in the privacy of the voting booth, despite having my name on the GOP ticket a few lines underneath McCain.

Like many millennial voters, I was captivated by the possibilities of ushering in an Era of Good Feelings. This was after all a period when post-partisanship and good government were the fashionable buzzwords.

Flashing forward to the present-day, the allure of candidate Obama never came to fruition.

America is more divided than ever. Obama has split the country in ways not seen since the Civil War.

And those divisions aren’t limited to partisanship or even the identity politics of race, ethnicity, sex (who would have thought what bathroom you use would ever become an issue!) and religion.

Obama moved Democrats so far to the left that the two major parties no longer believe in the same creed.

If there is an Obama legacy this will surely be it.

While the chattering class relentlessly opined on the tea party’s rise to dominate Republican politics there has been scant mention of Obama’s transformation of the Democratic Party.

Pre-Obama you could find Democrats, the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, who dissented from the party whip on abortion, the Second Amendment, morality, national defense and so forth. Today, those Democrats are relegated to the ash heap of history.

As a result, Obama’s Democratic Party has been decimated as the party of J.F.K. openly embraces the far-left and socialism embodied by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman who will likely be the next Democratic National Committee chairman.

Obama resurrected Republicans, who were electorally finished in the wake of his 2008 landslide.

The president and his partisans blame Republicans and their allies on the  airwaves, but the reality is Obama has nobody to blame but himself.

Attacking Republicans for doing what opposition parties are supposed to do — that is, being the party of ‘no’ — is an absurd attempt at blameshifting.

Obama failed because he was either disinterested or incompetent in the sausage making that was required to bring about the expectations he and he alone set with his soaring rhetoric and lofty promises.

Just think how things may have been different had President Obama actually governed like candidate Obama and unified the country in the process.

Dennis Lennox is executive director of Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands. Follow him on Twitter @dennislennox.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/314454-the-obama-presidency-that-never-was

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John Podesta

“We published several…emails which show Podesta responding to a phishing email,” said Mr Assange. “Podesta gave out that his password was the word ‘password’. His own staff said this email that you’ve received, this is totally legitimate. So, this is something … a 14-year-old kid could have hacked Podesta that way.”

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Australian police probing 1MDB-linked firms

January 11, 2017

1MDB is the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six other countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States

Reuters

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said on Tuesday they are working with international law enforcement agencies to investigate companies associated with Malaysia’s scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund.

1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), founded by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, is the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six other countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice allege more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB. The lawsuits seek to seize US$1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and diverted into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, valuable paintings, and a private jet.

Najib, who also chaired 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied wrongdoing and said Malaysia would cooperate with international investigations. 1MDB has also denied wrongdoing.

 Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

The AFP is responsible for investigating breaches of proceeds of crime laws by Australian companies, citizens and residents.

“The AFP is aware of allegations relating to companies associated with 1MDB and have assisted our foreign law enforcement partners with their investigations in relation to a number of these matters,” the AFP said in an emailed statement.

“As the AFP continues to evaluate these allegations it would not be appropriate to provide any further comment at this time,” it said.

The AFP did not respond to questions about reports they were investigating whether any financial gains from the scandal were in Australia or with which international agencies it was working.

Singaporean authorities have frozen the assets of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, who has not been charged with any offence related to 1MDB but has been identified as a person of interest in related investigations.

Singapore prosecutors filed 16 charges last week against the former local branch manager of Swiss-based Falcon Private Bank AG as part of its investigation into 1MDB.

Authorities in the city-state convicted two former bankers from Swiss wealth manager BSI last year on charges including forgery and failure to disclose suspicious transactions involving Jho Low.

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SINGAPORE – A former branch manager of Falcon Private Bank was sentenced to 28 weeks jail and a fine of S$128,000 after he pleaded guilty to six counts including consenting in the bank’s failure to comply with Singapore’s anti-money laundering rules in relation to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Swiss national Jens Sturzenegger, 42, was charged on Jan 5 with 16 counts including failing to report suspicious transactions tied to inflows of about US$1.265 billion (S$1.81 billion) into two accounts between March 21 and 25, 2013.

The remaining 10 charges were taken into consideration. Prosecution was seeking a sentence of 30-32 weeks imprisonment and fines totalling S$150,000.

Sturzenegger, the first foreigner and the fifth person to be charged in relation to the 1MDB scandal, was also accused of lying to police and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) about his ties to tycoon Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low. Mr Low is accused by the authorities around the world of being at the centre of alleged massive money laundering linked to 1MDB.

It is believed hundreds of millions of dollars have been transferred from accounts at Falcon to Mr Low and his associates as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been cleared of wrongdoing by Malaysia’s Attorney-General.

http://www.straitstimes.com/business/falcon-banks-ex-singapore-branch-manager-pleads-guilty-to-six-counts

Falcon Bank’s Former Singapore Manager Sent to Prison in 1MDB Probe

January 11, 2017

The former branch manager is the fourth person to go to prison in the city-state’s probe of a Malaysian state investment fund

Jens Sturzenegger, former branch manager for Falcon Private Bank, headed to court in Singapore with his lawyer on Wednesday.

Jens Sturzenegger, former branch manager for Falcon Private Bank, headed to court in Singapore with his lawyer on Wednesday .  Photo:  Wallace Woon/European Pressphoto Agency

Updated Jan. 11, 2017 5:13 a.m. ET

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A Singapore court Wednesday sentenced a former branch manager of Switzerland’s Falcon Private Bank AG to prison for crimes connected to the alleged multibillion-dollar misappropriation at Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB.

Jens Sturzenegger, 42, a Swiss national who managed Falcon’s Singapore unit, was charged last week with 16 offenses under various laws, including one that requires banks and their officers to enact due-diligence checks on clients to prevent money laundering.

The court Wednesday handed a 28-week prison sentence and a fine of 128,000 Singapore dollars (US$89,000) to Mr. Sturzenegger after he pleaded guilty to six offenses. These include three counts of providing false information to police and central bank authorities, and three counts of failing to report suspicious transactions. The remaining charges were taken into consideration in his sentencing but won’t be pursued separately by the prosecution.

While the charges didn’t directly link Mr. Sturzenegger to fund flows at 1Malaysia Development Bhd., Singapore’s central bank and regulator had said in October that the branch manager had been arrested that month in connection with the city-state’s probe into the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from the Malaysian fund. Prosecutors have called the investigation Singapore’s largest-ever probe of alleged money laundering.

On Wednesday, prosecutors told the court that Mr. Sturzenegger had lied to officers of the central bank and to the Singapore police’s white-collar crimes investigation unit as they examined Falcon transactions related to 1MDB fund flows. Mr. Sturzenegger’s lawyer said that his client had not derived any personal gain in relation to bank transactions, and sought a more lenient sentence, court documents showed.

The charges refer to Mr. Sturzenegger’s business dealings with Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, who global investigators have said was key to orchestrating the alleged 1MDB misappropriation. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that global investigators believe hundreds of millions of dollars of 1MDB money made its way through an account held at Falcon in Singapore to the personal accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mr. Najib has been cleared of wrongdoing by Malaysia’s attorney general, who said that the money deposited in his account was a legal donation from Saudi Arabia and most of it was returned. Mr. Najib, the Malaysian financier Mr. Low and 1MDB have all denied any wrongdoing. 1MDB has pledged cooperation with any lawful investigation. None of the three could be reached immediately on Wednesday.

Falcon declined to comment on Wednesday. The bank has previously said it is initiating new control measures to prevent future issues and that it has been cooperating with authorities.

Investigators in at least five countries are probing the finances of 1MDB in response to allegations that billions of dollars have gone missing. Swiss investigators say they believe that as much as US$4 billion was misappropriated from the fund through several banks, including private banks in Singapore.

In October, Singapore’s central bank withdrew the merchant-banking license of Falcon’s Singapore branch that Mr. Sturzenegger managed for what it called “persistent and severe lack of understanding” of its regulations, and fined it S$4.3 million.

The same month, Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General expanded its scrutiny of Malaysia’s 1MDB by opening a criminal investigation into Falcon. The Swiss attorney general’s office said at the time that internal “deficiencies” at the Zurich-based bank may have caused it to fail to prevent alleged money laundering associated with 1MDB.

Mr. Sturzenegger is the fourth person to be handed a prison sentence in Singapore’s 1MDB-related investigations.

In recent months, Singapore courts have convicted three former bankers at the local branch of another Swiss private bank, BSI SA, for crimes related to their handling of fund flows connected to 1MDB. They were given prison sentences of varying lengths for crimes such as failing to report suspicious transactions, forgery and attempting to obstruct the course of justice.

Write to P.R. Venkat at venkat.pr@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/falcon-banks-former-singapore-manager-sent-to-prison-in-1mdb-probe-1484125069

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Malaysia: Sound advice to Najib – don’t hide any more

January 2, 2017

 

By Stephen Ng

Malaysiakini

COMMENT Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) imbroglio has dragged on for far too long, making people becoming more impatient with the ruling party.

If I may use the word, it is ‘restless’. Yes, the people are getting very restless over the way that the economy is taking a beating as a result of the 1MDB scandal. 1MDB has been headlined in nearly every newspaper and magazine overseas, whereas in Malaysia, people are allegedly still being told one lie after another.

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Everywhere I go, whenever I speak to people, whether old friends or new people I meet, everyone is fully aware of the scandal that has plagued the nation for far too long.

If Umno’s own warlords do not unseat him as party president before the next general election, it would do a great injustice to the entire coalition that has ruled the country for the past 60 years.

In fact, by Aug 31 this year, it would be exactly 60 years since Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra as the country’s first prime minister, declared Independence from the British colonialists.

Since his time, Umno has morphed into something totally different from the times and era of the Father of Independence. Its alleged involvement in one scandal after another has shocked the nation, yet Malaysians at large are to be blamed for being laid back and good at criticising others whom they expect to change the world for them.

It takes people like Anwar Ibrahim, Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Teresa Kok, Nurul Izzah Anwar, Lim Guan Eng, Lim Kit Siang and Tony Pua to expose the scandals.

The latest scandal exposed by PKR vice-president Rafizi allegedly involves Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) where US$505million (RM2.26 billion) was to be spent on purchasing a 37 percent stake in Indonesia’s PT Eagle High Plantations.

The price at which Felda was going to pay for a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation, according to PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, raises an alarm, as Indonesian billionaire Peter Sondakh, who owns Rajawali Group, had taken up a 68.6 percent stake in EHP at only US$570 million.

Rafizi claimed he has “given information to assist authorities so that they can commence investigation into whether or not there was interference or instructions from superiors, whether at the board level or from politicians or government to Felda to proceed with the acquisition of Eagle High.”

Felda, on the other hand, plans to purchase a 37 percent non-controlling stake in the Indonesian plantation for US$505.4 million (RM2.26 billion), for 582 rupiah per share.

He also brought up another major issue regarding the highest spending of RM25 billion last year on Felda’s replanting scheme, citing that this exposed the scheme to various risks of abuse and corruption.

Najib’s personal accounts

Recently, Singaporean former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, who was linked to the 1MDB scandal, was found guilty and sentenced to a 30-month jail term. Yeo, who is also linked to Najib’s close associate, Jho Low, will be facing other charges soon.

All that the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) could say was that Yeo’s jail sentence had nothing to do with either 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy or Najib himself.

In two other recent cases down south, both Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah are now serving jail terms because of their links to 1MDB. Yak is now serving an 18-week jail term on forgery charges and failure to disclose suspicious transactions, while Yak’s assistant, Yvonne Seah, is in prison for two weeks after she pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Two former executives of Abu Dhabi-based lnternational Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and its investment arm, Aabar Investments PJS, Khadem Al-Qubaishi and Mohamed Badawy al-Huseiny were also arrested for their links to “fraud and money-laundering on 1MDB”.

How then can Najib, through Jasa’s recent statement, deny that he had any link to the scandal, especially since he is all three – the chairperson of the 1MDB advisory board, the finance minister who came up with the brainchild, as well as the prime minister of Malaysia?

If Low was not involved, why did he not personally appear before the judiciary in the United States to claim the assets confiscated by the US Department of Justice? Why did his family members claim the assets on his behalf? I dare both the flamboyant Low and Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, to step foot on the US grounds at this juncture of their lives.

As for Najib, who claimed that RM2.6 billion that went into his personal accounts was donated by an unnamed generous Arab prince, why did he apply to intervene in the ex-parte lawsuit filed by Zaid Ibrahim to compel AmBank Islamic Berhad to disclose the details of how RM2.6 billion had been deposited into five accounts which are allegedly his?

Zaid did the right thing to pursue this matter, but hopefully, the court will uphold justice and rule in public interest. Like Zaid, we, too, want to know where the money came from and how it ended up in one man’s personal accounts, especially since the US Department of Justice had alleged that the money came from 1MDB.

It is not only RM2.6 billion, but another RM41 million which had allegedly originated from SRC International.

After all, the whole nation and the world is being told that the money was a donation from a generous Arab prince. Is there anything for Najib to hide now?

Read more: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/367904#ixzz4UdvGPHQk

http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/367904

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Singapore Convicts Former Banker With Ties to Key Figure in 1MDB Probe

December 21, 2016

Conviction is third to result from city-state’s probe of alleged multibillion-dollar misappropriations at Malaysian state fund

Yeo Jiawei previously worked for the Singapore unit of Swiss bank BSI. Above, the bank’s headquarters in Lugano.

Yeo Jiawei previously worked for the Singapore unit of Swiss bank BSI. Above, the bank’s headquarters in Lugano. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Dec. 21, 2016 4:06 a.m. ET

SINGAPORE—A Singapore court Wednesday convicted a former private banker with ties to a Malaysian financier described by global investigators as central to probes of alleged multibillion-dollar misappropriations at Malaysian state fund 1MDB.

Yeo Jiawei, 33, a onetime wealth manager at the local branch of Swiss Bank BSI SA, was convicted on four charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Mr. Yeo had fought all the charges against him.

The judge, while delivering the verdict, said that he found the accused “unreliable and not credible.”

Mr. Yeo’s sentencing hearing is set to take place on Thursday. Singapore law allows for a prison sentence of up to seven years per charge, a fine, or both. A Singapore prosecutor told reporters Wednesday that he would seek a sentence “beyond the norm.” A lawyer for Mr. Yeo declined to comment.

During a three-week trial, which began at the end of October, a key witness testified that Mr. Yeo, after leaving BSI, went to work with or for Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low. Singapore investigators have called Mr. Low a “key person of interest” in their investigation into the alleged 1MDB misappropriations.

Mr. Low couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. Mr. Low has previously denied any wrongdoing in his dealings related to 1MDB. 1MDB also couldn’t be reached immediately. The fund has previously denied any wrongdoing and pledged cooperation with any lawful investigation.

Investigators in at least five countries are probing the finances of the Malaysian state-investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., in response to allegations that billions of dollars have gone missing. Swiss investigators say they believe that as much as US$4 billion was misappropriated from the fund through several banks, including BSI.

BSI declined to comment Wednesday but has said in the past it is cooperating with authorities and taking steps to improve compliance.

Mr. Yeo separately faces trial next year for seven other charges relating to cheating, money laundering and forgery, allegedly committed during his time at BSI. His lawyer has said his client will contest all those charges as well.

Mr. Yeo’s is the third conviction to result from Singapore’s probe of 1MDB’s finances. Earlier two former colleagues pleaded guilty to charges of forgery and failing to report suspicious transactions.

Write to P.R. Venkat at venkat.pr@wsj.com and Gaurav Raghuvanshi at gaurav.raghuvanshi@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/singapore-convicts-former-banker-with-ties-to-key-figure-in-1mdb-probe-1482311165

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Singapore Ex-Banker Convicted in 1MDB Malaysia Fund Case — Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the U.S. continue to investigate Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

December 21, 2016

TOKYO — A court in Singapore found a former private banker guilty Wednesday of trying to obstruct investigations linked to the indebted Malaysian State Fund 1MDB.

The State Court convicted Yeo Jiawei, a former wealth planner at Swiss private bank BSI, on four charges related to obstructing, preventing or perverting the course of justice.

Yeo denied involvement in the case.

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Yeo Jiawei

He was alleged to have asked three key witnesses to lie to the authorities, dispose of a laptop and avoid traveling to Singapore, according to charge sheets. Prosecutors alleged he pocketed $26 million Singapore dollars ($18 million) in relation to the case.

In announcing his ruling Judge Ng Peng Hong said he found Yeo “to be an unreliable and not a credible witness.”

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Investigators in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and the U.S. have been probing allegations that people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stole over $1 billion from 1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

In February, Singapore authorities said they had seized a large number of bank accounts in probe. Regulators are expected give a final update on their findings in early 2017.

Singapore ordered BSI to stop operating in the city in May due to violations of anti-money laundering requirements, among other problems. Yeo still faces seven other charges related to alleged money laundering, cheating and forgery linked to 1MDB.

For attempting to obstruct, prevent or pervert the course of justice, Yeo faces a maximum sentence of 3.5 years in jail and possible fines on each charge.

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Berlin truck attack — “probable terror attack.”

December 20, 2016

Suspected truck driver is arrested; German authorities call incident ‘probable terror attack’

Police stand near the truck that crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday. Police said at least 12 people were killed and about 50 injured in the incident.

A black semitrailer truck plowed through a busy Christmas market in Berlin, killing at least 12 people and injuring scores more. Police said the truck was steered deliberately. Photo: Getty

BERLIN—German authorities on Tuesday were questioning the sole suspect in a truck attack on a popular Christmas market that left at least 12 dead, in what authorities described as a “probable terror attack.”

The suspect is from Pakistan, a person familiar with the investigation said. The man was born in the 1990s, the person said, noting it was not yet clear whether the man entered Germany as a refugee as some German media reported.

At about 8 p.m. Monday, a black semitrailer with Polish license plates drove onto the sidewalk at the market in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, one of western Berlin’s most famous landmarks, and plowed into revelers and market stands, injuring 48 additional people. The truck barreled more than 200 feet and the driver then fled the scene, the police said, citing witness reports.

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A truck is seen behind police tape near the Christmas market. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Soon after, police apprehended the suspected driver about a mile away, at the Victory Column in Berlin’s sprawling Tiergarten park.

Authorities said early Tuesday morning that the truck was driven into the market on purpose. “Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was steered deliberately into the crowd,” the police wrote on the force’s official Twitter account.

Officials remained guarded about releasing many details of the attacker, including the identity of the assailant. But it appeared that a long-feared attack on one of Germany’s many lightly guarded Christmas markets had transpired.

“I don’t yet want to use the word ‘attack,’ though there is much that points in this direction,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said on German television late Monday night.

The Scania truck, loaded with steel beams, may have been stolen from a construction site in Poland, Berlin police said. The truck’s Polish owner hadn’t heard from his driver of the truck for some time on Monday, Mr. de Maizière said.

Berlin Christmas Market Crash: Police, Rescue Workers Rush to Aid Victims

A truck plowed into a crowd at a Berlin market on Monday evening, killing at least 12 and injuring about 50

Police secure the area around the crash site. The circumstances of the incident weren’t immediately clear, but a security official said authorities believe it was a deliberate act.
Emergency crew at the site where a semi-trailer drove onto the sidewalk near Breitscheidplatz in Charlottenburg, a tony district in West Berlin, at about 8 p.m.
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Medics attend to an injured person after a truck crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin.
German police officers secure the site.
Rescue workers rush to help injured people.
Police guard a Christmas market after the incident. The crash took place at the site of the Christmas market in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a popular site for tourists.
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin.
Police secure the area around the crash site. The circumstances of the incident weren’t immediately clear, but a security official said authorities believe it was a deliberate act.
Police stand near the truck that crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday. Police said at least 12 people were killed and about 50 injured in the incident.

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Police secure the area around the crash site. The circumstances of the incident weren’t immediately clear, but a security official said authorities believe it was a deliberate act. FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS
Police stand near the truck that crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday. Police said at least 12 people were killed and about 50 injured in the incident. RAINER JENSEN/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Emergency crew at the site where a semi-trailer drove onto the sidewalk near Breitscheidplatz in Charlottenburg, a tony district in West Berlin, at about 8 p.m. PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI/REUTERS
Police work at the site where a truck plowed into a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in western Berlin. FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS
Medics attend to an injured person after a truck crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin. ODD ANDERSEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
German police officers secure the site. FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS
Rescue workers rush to help injured people. PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI/REUTERS
Police guard a Christmas market after the incident. The crash took place at the site of the Christmas market in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a popular site for tourists.MARKUS SCHREIBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A truck is seen near the Christmas market in Berlin. PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI/REUTERS
Police secure the area around the crash site. The circumstances of the incident weren’t immediately clear, but a security official said authorities believe it was a deliberate act. FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS
Police stand near the truck that crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday. Police said at least 12 people were killed and about 50 injured in the incident. RAINER JENSEN/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

A Polish man found in the truck was among the dead, Berlin police said, adding that he was a passenger in the cab of the truck. The owner, Ariel Zurawski, told Polish news channel TVN24 he had lost contact with the man who had been driving the truck earlier in the day—a cousin of his—in the early afternoon. He said that he believed the driver might have been assaulted and that he was confident his cousin wasn’t behind the steering wheel at the time of the attack.

If it is confirmed that the driver is from Pakistan, that could stoke tensions over a wave of migrants from Muslim countries that has fueled nationalist sentiment and roiled politics in Germany and across Europe.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is known for the still-visible damage it sustained in World War II bombings.

Late Monday, the truck remained at the crash scene, its back-right wheels lodged next to a Christmas-market hut that said “Faszination Weihnachten”—“The Magic of Christmas.”

“It is just terrible to see all the people who came here to have a good time and now we are seeing dead and injured,” Berlin Mayor Michael Müller said, visiting the scene. “We always hope to avoid this sort of scenario in Berlin.”

Officials have warned about the potential for an attack on a Christmas market in Germany. These markets draw millions of locals and tourists to squares in small towns and big cities alike. In November, the State Department issued a travel alert warning that Islamic State and al Qaeda were planning terrorist attacks “in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”

Earlier this month, officials said that Germany narrowly avoided a suspected Islamist attack on a Christmas market in the city of Ludwigshafen. Authorities reported that a 12-year-old German-Iraqi boy twice planted an explosive device at a Christmas market there that failed to detonate.

Germany’s federal prosecutor-general will investigate the Berlin crash, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter—a decision also indicating that authorities suspect the incident was a terror attack. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was staying informed of developments, her spokesman said, and the government sent its condolences to the victims.

If confirmed to be a terror attack, it would be the first in Germany to result in deaths in recent years. Two terrorist attacks struck Germany earlier this year—but no bystanders were killed in either of them. In one, a teenager registered as an Afghan refugee went on an ax rampage on a train and injured five people. In another, a suicide bomber struck an outdoor concert, injuring 15.

The Berlin incident recalled the attack at Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France, in July that claimed the lives of 86 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.

The crash prompted an outpouring of condolences and offers of support from governments across the West. Ned Price, the spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, said the U.S. condemned “what appears to have been a terrorist attack.” He added: “We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident.”

President-elect Donald Trump reacted to the truck crash and other violent incidents in the region Monday on Twitter: “Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany—and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”

In France, President François Hollande expressed on his official Twitter account his “solidarity and compassion with Chancellor Merkel, the German people and the families of Berlin victims.” Tweeting in German, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel wrote that “a Christmas market became a place of mourning.” while European Council chief Donald Tusk, representing EU governments, wrote on Twitter that “Europe stands ready to help.”

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted: “My thoughts & condolences are w/ the people of #Germany following tonight’s terrible tragedy in #Berlin, leaving so many dead & injured.”

Write to Anton Troianovski at anton.troianovski@wsj.com, Zeke Turner at Zeke.Turner@wsj.com and Ruth Bender at Ruth.Bender@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/multiple-dead-after-truck-drove-on-sidewalk-at-christmas-market-in-berlin-police-say-1482177633

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Berlin Crash Is Suspected to Be a Terror Attack, Police Say

BERLIN — The Berlin police said early Tuesday that the killing of at least 12 people and the wounding of dozens more when a truck plowed through a Christmas market on Monday night was “a suspected terrorist attack.”

In a statement, the police added that they were working swiftly and with “necessary care” in the investigation.

The truck jumped the sidewalk about 8 p.m. near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, whose jagged spire, a reminder of the bombings during World War II, is one of the most symbolic sites in Berlin.

The police said they later arrested a man near the scene who was suspected of driving the truck, which had been stolen from a worksite in Poland about a two-hour drive from Berlin. A passenger, identified by the authorities as a Polish national, was found dead in the cab.

There was no claim of responsibility, but the episode immediately evoked the attack in July in Nice, France, when a truck driver ran over and killed more than 80 people during Bastille Day celebrations.

Several people were injured when a truck driver jumped the sidewalk and plowed into a crowd in Berlin.CreditFabrizio Bensch/Reuters

The impact scattered people who just moments before had been shopping and drinking mulled wine amid stands that sell Christmas gifts, sweets and sausages. At least 45 people were injured, including several with severe wounds, the authorities said.

World’s longest tunnel opens regular service in Switzerland

December 11, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | The 57-kilometre (35.4-mile) new Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) in Switzerland, which runs under the Alps, was first conceived in sketch-form in 1947 but construction began 17 years ago

GENEVA (AFP) – Regular rail service through the world’s longest tunnel began on Sunday, carrying passengers deep under the Swiss Alps from Zurich to Lugano.

The famed Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) had a ceremonial opening in June, attracting European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande for its maiden ride.

The Swiss national rail service (SBB) had announced that Sunday would mark the start of normal commercial traffic through the 57-kilometre (35-mile) GBT, which took 17 years to build, at a cost of over 12 billion Swiss francs ($11.8 billion, 11.2 billion euros).

The Swiss news agency ATS reported that the first regular passenger train to use the GBT pulled out of Zurich at 6:09 am (0509 GMT) and arrived in Lugano at 8:17 am, with the tunnel passage shaving a full 30 minutes off the previous travel time for the same route.

“It’s Christmas,” SBB chief Andreas Meyer was quoted as saying by ATS after the journey was over.

The ambitious GBT project has won praise across Europe for its pioneering efforts to improve connectivity from Rotterdam to the Adriatic.

The Swiss funded tunnel was largely made possible by technical advances in tunnel-boring machines, which replaced the costly and dangerous blast-and-drill method.

The GBT has surpassed Japan’s 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the world’s longest train tunnel.

The 50.5-kilometre Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France has been bumped into third place.