Several suspicious transactions involving the Singapore bank account of a company owned by former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz’s husband were only flagged by Singapore police around seven years respectively after the transfers took place, according to a recent report by business daily The Edge.
According to documents and correspondences sighted by The Edge, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force only notified the Malaysian central bank about the transactions in 2015 and 2016, despite the transactions having occurred in 2008 and 2009.
The Edge noted that “several inflows of money” into the UBS bank account of Dr Tawfiq Ayman’s company, Iron Rhapsody Ltd had “triggered the suspicious transaction report alerts”.
Documents shared by the CAD with the Malaysian investigators revealed that a total of US$16.22 mil (around S$22 mil) was received by Iron Rhapsody from businessman Low Taek Jho’s companies or bank accounts.
Funds in the four transactions originated from Low and his supporters from the RM5 bil (S$1.7 bil) 1MDB and Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) bonds arranged by Malaysian bank Ambank in 2009.
Low and others, via Aktis Capital Pte Ltd, Acme Time and Country Group Private Securities Ltd, made more than RM600 mil (nearly S$200 mil) in profits from the above, The Edge noted.
Low, better known as Jho Low, was a central figure in the 1MDB scandal, which entailed a global web of theft and money laundering of monies from the state fund, propelling an international probe among investigators in Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.
Exposés by The Edge, alongside Sarawak Report and The Wall Street Journal, were instrumental in sparking the 1MDB investigations.
Dr Tawfiq and Low were believed to be partners in a company set up by the latter in Jul 2007, named Abu Dhabi Kuwait Malaysia Investment Corp (ADKMIC), according to The Edge, based on documents seen by the business newspaper.
Ex-BSI banker Yak Yew Chee, who was put behind bars for abetting Low in the 1MDB-related transactions, had reportedly told CAD that at the time ADKMIC was incorporated, there were six to seven shareholders, including Dr Tawfiq and Low.
Low was pinpointed by United States prosecutors and the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative as one of the significant figures in the process of grafting money from 1MDB.
He was also named as a “key person of interest” by the Singapore authorities in Nov 2016.
CAD investigations also revealed that between Jun 2011 to Sep 2013, a total of US$153 mil (S$204 mil) was transferred to ADKMIC’s bank account in RBS Coutts, Singapore from Goodstar Ltd’s bank account in RBS Coutts, Switzerland.
“Goodstar is owned by Low and received US$700 million illegally from the RM5 billion 1MDB/TIA bonds issue with the help of Ambank,” said The Edge.
The Edge added that the government-guaranteed bond paid a hefty coupon of 5.75 per cent and was sold at a discount by Ambank to Low and cohorts through companies in Singapore and Bangkok.
In Jul 2016, Singapore authorities seized bank accounts and properties from several individuals totalling S$240 mil following investigations into 1MDB.
Approximately half of the total of the assets are said to be owned by Low and his immediate family.
Low was, at the time of the scandal, a close friend of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz.
He had previously stated that he provided consulting services to 1MDB, whose advisory board was previously chaired by Najib.