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Swiss private bank charged with money laundering just months before ceasing operations; former CEO to also appear in court

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES are being brought against a private bank in Switzerland which is already in the process of winding down operations.

Falcon Private Bank – based in Zurich but with a presence in Luxembourg, London and Dubai – has been charged with money laundering by the Swiss Attorney General.

These charges are understood to relate to an instance of organisational deficiencies in relation to a corporate criminal case, Swiss media outlet Handelszeitung reported Thursday.

Former Falcon Bank chief executive Eduardo Leemann has also been charged in connection with the case and will appear in court next year.

His spokesperson told Handelszeitung that, “the accusations of Federal Prosecutor’s Office are unsubstantiated, completely unfounded and are completely rejected.”

Falcon is currently in the process of winding down and transferring its assets and client relationships to two other institutions – themselves in the process of a merger: One Suisse Bank and Banque Profil de Gestion.

In May, Falcon announced that from 2021, it would cease doing business in the private banking sector altogether. Board chairman Roberto Grassi described the decision as one taken “after a strategic review and evaluating various options.”

The announcement was preceded by reports in Switzerland that the national financial regulator FINMA was planning to strip the bank of its licence.

A turbulent few years for the organisation began when authorities in Switzerland and further afield discovered links between Falcon and the 1MDB financial scandal.

Described by a US legal official as a “massive money laundering scheme,” it revolved around Malaysian development company 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The organisation is now known to have served as a facility for high-ranking Malaysian individuals to funnel millions in public funds to their personal bank accounts.

FINMA had previously identified Falcon as the destination of over $3.8 billion in 1MDB-related cash, and the channel through which a further $2.5 billion what transferred to offshore companies.

Resignations of senior figures like former CEO Walter Berchtold followed the revelations, and the bank also lost its licence to do business in Singapore in 2016.

Now, with fresh charges, the bank maintains innocence.

“Falcon denies the allegations made in the indictment and will defend its interest in court,” a statement read. “The indictment has no impact on the bank’s operation activities.”

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