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Malaysia’s reputation suffers as FinCEN files reveal laundering trails

By Dan Byrne

Malaysia has been red flagged as country with high risk for financial crime.

The accusations have been made in the wake of the FinCEN files’ release Sunday evening, which contained suspicious activity reports (SARs) from US banks to the US Treasury.

Many of these SARs labelled Malaysia as a “high-risk jurisdiction for money laundering and financial crime.”

The leaked files showed 23 high-profile transactions accounting for the movement of over $18 million (RM74 million) through Malaysian banks, MalayMail reported Monday.

Malaysia’s Public Bank Berhad – one of the nation’s top three banks in 2019, and one of the top ten banks in SE Asia – was responsible for processing the highest value of outward transactions, the leaks suggested.

They handled $13.37 million across seven outward transfers to overseas accounts in countries such as the US, Afghanistan, UAE, Poland and Latvia.

In a statement Tuesday, the bank stressed what they described as a “zero-tolerance approach” towards financial crime.

“Public Bank views seriously the need to combat financial crimes and to comply with all applicable legal, regulatory and supervisory requirements to safeguard against threats to its customers and the banking system,” it read.

“We have invested substantially in our systems capabilities to detect and report suspicious transactions to the authorities and have allocated significant resources to strengthening and maintaining our internal controls towards this purpose.”

AmBank, another top bank in Malaysia with over three million customers and expertise in areas such as Islamic banking, were found to have the highest value of inward funds at $2.9 million across two transactions.

The Malaysian arm of the HSBC was alleged to have handled close to $900,000 in inward funds also. The HSBC group has received worldwide attention for its prominent appearance in the FinCEN files revelations.

The US banks who filed the reports were Bank of New York Mellon, Standard Chartered and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

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