Money-Laundering affair involving Musa Aman, the Chief Minister of Sabah

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(BERNE, SWITZERLAND) Carlo Sommaruga, social democrat MP for Geneva, has today filed a number of questions in the Swiss parliament on an international money-laundering affair involving Musa Aman, the Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah, and the Swiss bank UBS. The MP’s move follows recent media reports, according to which over 90 million US dollars of timber-business-related kickbacks have been laundered by the UBS subsidiary in Hong Kong. Switzerland’s Attorney General and the Federal Office of Justice confirmed that Swiss authorities provided legal assistance and sent the case files to law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong in March 2011.

Questions submitted in Parliament by Sommaruga are aimed at revealing more details on the Swiss legal assistance given to Hong Kong in the UBS case. The MP is asking the Swiss government to reveal which criminal charges the legal assistance given by Switzerland concerned, whether the Swiss government had been approached by Malaysian law enforcement agencies on the matter and whether Switzerland would also be willing to provide legal assistance to Malaysia.

Furthermore, MP Carlo Sommaruga is pressuring the Swiss government to freeze assets held by Musa Aman and by other Malaysian potentates, such as Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and his family members. He also asked what safeguards within the envisaged Free Trade Agreement between EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, and Malaysia would prevent Malaysian corruption proceeds from flowing to Switzerland.

Last month, a series of investigative pieces by Sarawak Report on Musa Aman’s secret bank accounts with UBS in Hong Kong caused a stir in Malaysia. According to the whistleblower website, Musa had cashed in millions of dollars of kickbacks in return for logging concessions granted by Yayasan Sabah, a public body headed by the Sabah Chief Minister. It is believed that the permits granted by Musa have contributed to seriously damaging the habitats of orang utans and other endangered animals in Borneo’s tropical rainforests. The Bruno Manser Fund is currently examining whether UBS’ conduct is in breach of Swiss anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering regulations.

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