NGOs to Switzerland: Return Frozen 1MDB RM430M to People of Malaysia

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Three NGOs are calling on Switzerland to return unclaimed funds linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to the rakyat.

Led by Center to Combat Cronyism and Corruption (C4), Bersih 2.0 and Global Bersih, they have proposed that the funds be returned via a trust fund modelled after the Bota Foundation in Kazakhstan.

The foundation was founded in 2008 by five Kazakhs and the governments of Kazakhstan, the United States, and Switzerland as a means of returning more than US$115 million (RM450 million) in disputed assets in support of poor children, youth, and their families in Kazakhstan.

Swiss finance minister Ueli Maurer had disclosed that the money was deposited in the Swiss Federal Treasury as there were no claimants, said Bersih 2.0 Acting Chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari.

The funds are currently frozen as criminal court proceedings are still ongoing against Swiss banks allegedly involved in laundering the money.

Swiss parliamentarians are set to table a motion next week on the funds amounting to CHF104 million (RM430 million).

“C4 Center and Bersih 2.0 urge the Members of Parliament (MPs) who will be debating the motion in the Swiss Parliament next week to consider the proposal put forth: to return a portion of the seized funds that happened to be laundered in Switzerland back to the rightful beneficiaries, the people of Malaysia,” said the NGOs.

They also hope our parliamentarians will try to push for the government to do something.

“Parliamentarians in a foreign country are discussing a Malaysia-related issue, but we are not allowed to even raise 1MDB issues in our parliament,” Shahrul said.

C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the Malaysian attorney-general and the government had also remained silent on the request from the Swiss attorney-general for “mutual legal assistance” in the investigation of 1MDB financial dealings.

The Swiss attorney general’s request for cooperation in regards to the investigation in April 2017 was met with silence from the government. Attempts to take the matter to court and discuss it in Parliament have also been highhandedly dismissed.

“If there is no regime change, our proposal is that if the funds are returned, they should be managed by an independent body represented by different groups and employ transparent processes.

“The body should be accountable to the public on how these funds will be distributed back to the people,” said Cynthia.

The Swiss financial regulatory body, Finma, has already punished three Swiss banks for serious breaches of money laundering regulations and confiscated 104 million Swiss francs in illicit gains from money laundering.

The three banks are appealing the decision.

The Malaysian NGOs had in November 2017 also called on the Swiss Federal Department of Finance and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) to return the funds via an independent trust fund.

In a letter dated Feb 9, that was shared by the NGOs, the Swiss Federal Department of Finance replied saying that it was “too early to comment on the ultimate fate of these assets”.

The Department also said that the ultimate assignment of the funds seized will depend on the outcome of the ongoing criminal proceedings pending before the Office of the Attorney-General of Switzerland.

“In these circumstances, it is not yet possible to assess whether and in what form a return of assets is conceivable,” said the letter.

Earlier report: Nov 23, Bersih, C4, 110 NGOs Want Swiss to Return RM443M 1MDB Funds to Msians