PetroSaudi duo charged in Switzerland over misappropriated 1MDB funds

(FMT) – Two PetroSaudi International Ltd managers have been charged in Geneva, Switzerland, over the misappropriation of at least US$1.8 billion in 1MDB funds.

According to AP, the duo are accused of attempting to enrich themselves and others by misappropriating the funds.

They were charged with committing commercial fraud, as well as aggravated criminal mismanagement and money laundering. Swiss prosecutors said the charges were based on events that took place between 2009 and 2015.

The pair were not named due to privacy reasons, according to the office of Switzerland’s attorney-general.

In that six-year period, the duo allegedly arranged for bank accounts to be set up in Switzerland and other countries to mask the origin of the misappropriated funds. This was also aimed at preventing any confiscation of the funds, according to Swiss prosecutors.

The prosecutors said they established a fake joint venture purportedly between the Saudi and Malaysian governments that would allow them to siphon off US$700 million to a Swiss company’s bank account controlled by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low.

The Swiss attorney-general’s office said Low “manipulated” a 2009 meeting between then prime minister Najib Razak and Saudi’s Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on a yacht near Cannes to “depict” the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture as a government-to-government transaction.

Low, the alleged mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal, then allegedly transferred US$85 million to the two managers.

The PetroSaudi duo are also accused of convincing the 1MDB board to transfer another US$830 million as part of a purported loan, which was later misappropriated.

The pair then used the funds to purchase property in Switzerland and London, jewellery, private equity holdings, and to “develop lucrative activities” at PetroSaudi which funded their “lavish lifestyle”.

Assets worth some 192 million Swiss francs, or about US$215 million, were seized by Swiss authorities. The properties in Switzerland and London were also seized.

The case will be brought to the federal criminal court in Bellinzona, Switzerland.

There are three other 1MDB-related criminal cases pending in Switzerland, including one that involves the permanently closed BSI Bank over flawed internal procedures.

The other two cases involve a former PetroSaudi employee suspected of industrial espionage, and two former 1MDB officers and two public officials in the United Arab Emirates over alleged bribery, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.