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Private bank embroiled in 1MDB scandal restructures

Private bank embroiled in 1MDB scandal restructures

Private banking boutique Falcon Group has restructured to enable future growth following a 'challenging year' in 2016.

The Swiss bank, with offices in Zurich, London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, has appointed Christian Wenger as the new chairman of its board, among other changes. 

Wenger will replace Murtadha M. Al Hashmi, who will take up to position of vice-chairman.

Lennart Blecher, who has been on the board for 13 years, will also step down from his role. 

The restructure comes after the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that it was withdrawing merchant bank status from Falcon Private Bank's branch for serious failures in anti-money laundering (AML) controls and improper conduct by senior management at the head office and the branch. 

The action on the bank followed supervisory examinations by MAS into Malaysia's state development fund 1MDB.

MAS investigated related fund flows which took place through Falcon, alongside several other banks, from March 2013 to May 2015.

The US Department of Justice alleges $3.5bn (£2.6bn) was misappropriated from 1MDB.

Last month Coutts was ordered to return CHF6.1 million (£5 million) for its role in the scandal.  

After the announcement in October, Falcon Private Bank closed its Singapore branch. 

The bank paid a composition fine of $300,000 (£240,000) for breaches of AML requirements and the regulator told the bank to strengthen its controls. 

The bank's former head of the Singapore branch, Jens Sturzenegger has also been fined $128,000 and sentenced to 28 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to six counts in relation to the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal. 

For the financial year 2016, the group recorded a loss of CHF128 million and received a capital contribution from its shareholder Aabar Investments to compensate for the loss. 

'Clearly exceeding regulatory requirements, we had a consolidated Capital Adequacy Ratio of over 20% and a solid liquidity cushion (LCR) of around 140% at the end of January 2017. These solid capital and liquidity positions provide security for our clients and counterparties and underline our ability to meet all obligations at any time,' the company noted. 

It added that it has also taken steps to address legacy issues and to strengthen its compliance and risk framework. 

Other new appointments include Marc P Bernegger, a fintech expert, Martin Keller, who has experience in asset management and wealth management, and Dominik Schärer, with more than 30 years in financial services. 

Schärer previously was chairman of Merrill Lynch Capital Markets in Zurich between 2007 and 2016. 

'We are convinced that the newly formed board of directors will bring together the necessary financial industry and Swiss banking knowledge as well as the expertise in new technologies required to drive our future growth,' the group added. 

Walter Berchtold (pictured), chief executive officer, added: 'Our reputation and our financial stability are of utmost importance. With the completion of our financial restructuring and the de-risking of our client-book we have laid the foundation for long-term success.

'We are highly confident of our capabilities to create sustainable value for clients, employees and our shareholder alike.'

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