Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

French probe into Malaysian submarine deal stalled

An investigation into a Scorpène-class submarine deal signed between Malaysia and a French defence company has hit a stumbling block due to the absence of collaboration from Hong Kong, according to reports.

William Bourdon, a French lawyer representing the human rights group that filed the complaint against the deal in France in 2012, reportedly cited bank accounts for a Hong Kong shell company as crucial to shedding light on the beneficiaries of the deal.

Bourdon reportedly said that this “black hole of evidence” could reveal Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as “the orchestra chief”, adding that Hong Kong had not yet formally refused to cooperate with France.

The deal was allegedly signed after French company Naval Group bribed Malaysian officials. Malaysia opened its own investigation into the deal in November 2018.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund divested from 30 risky companies last year

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund divested from 30 unnamed companies in 2018 “following assessments of governance and sustainability risks”.

In a report published on 7 February, Norges Bank Investment Management said that the companies it divested from include organisations that do business in an unsustainable way and that have paid fines for “irresponsible conduct”. The fund said that it had divested from 240 companies since 2012. 

In an interview with Bloomberg, the chief executive officer of the $1 trillion fund suggested that money laundering is one of the factors it looks at before divesting, but declined to comment further.

Swiss investigate money laundering connected to Venezuela

Switzerland’s Attorney General (OAG) is conducting criminal proceedings based on allegations of money laundering in relation to Venezuela, according to an emailed press release.  

The OAG has not released any details about who or what is under investigation but confirmed that proceedings were initiated at the end of 2017 against unknown persons related to events in Venezuela.  

Separately, the OAG told Reuters it is assisting Brazilian proseuctors in their investigation into an alleged corruption scheme involving trading firms Vitol, Glencore, and Trafigura. The spokesperson told Reuters that the OAG had received mutual legal assistance requests from Brazilian prosecutors between June 2018 and January 2019.


Rabobank fined €1m over inadequate money laundering controls

Rabobank has confirmed that it was fined €1 million for poor money laundering controls by the Dutch central bank in September 2018.

According to Dutch paper de Volkskrant, which first reported the news, the central bank found gaps in Rabobank’s client files. In some instances, the bank was unable to explain clients’ corporate structures, or who the ultimate beneficial owners were.

The fine applies to events up until and including 2016.

Rabobank said the internal problems have since been remediated. The Dutch central bank reportedly declined to comment.

US government shutdown delays SEC’s Rio Tinto case

Due to the US government shutdown, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was unable to depose Rio Tinto’s former CEO Thomas Albanese and former CFO Guy Elliot in a fraud case concerning the Anglo-Australian miner’s alleged overstatements of the value of coal-mining assets in Mozambique.

The SEC requested an extension of time for fact discovery in the case in a 11 February joint status report filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York that would move the deadline from 29 March 2019 to 29 April 2019.

The agency charged Albanese, Elliot and Rio Tinto in October 2017. The UK Financial Conduct Authority fined the company £27.4 million the same month over the alleged misconduct.

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