Swiss to investigate UBS for alleged money laundering for Malaysian rainforest logging

September 04, 2012

Logging truck in Sabah. Photo by Rhett Butler.

Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into whether banking giant UBS laundered money on behalf of a Malaysian politician who allegedly received illegal payments for allowing logging in Borneo, reports the Associated Press.

The decision by the Federal Prosecutors' Office came after The Bruno Manser Foundation, an activist group, filed a complaint against UBS, which was named by Malaysia's anti-corruption agency — the MACC — in a money laundering scheme involving Musa Aman, the chied minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah. Aman and his associates allegedly transferred $90 million through several UBS bank accounts in Hong Kong. Aman is also said to have a personal UBS account in Zurich.

UBS said it would "cooperate fully" with with authorities.

Logging road in Sabah. Photo by Rhett Butler.

"UBS applies the highest standards worldwide in the fight against money laundering and corruption. UBS is under an obligation to report the discovery of criminal proceeds and suspicious activities to the relevant anti-money laundering authorities," the bank said in a statement.

"In this matter, UBS has complied with these obligations already several years ago in several countries, prior to the commencement of various investigations. Ever since, UBS has been fully cooperating in a number of investigations relating to this matter. We understand that UBS itself has not been the subject of such investigations."

Sabah's rainforests have been heavily logged over the past 40 years. Only a fraction of the state's primary rainforests remain intact.

While the Sabah Department of Forestry is responsible for managing the state's forest resources, the chief minister has the ultimate control over the agency.

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Industrial logging leaves a poor legacy in Borneo's rainforests

(07/17/2012) For most people "Borneo" conjures up an image of a wild and distant land of rainforests, exotic beasts, and nomadic tribes. But that place increasingly exists only in one's imagination, for the forests of world's third largest island have been rapidly and relentlessly logged, burned, and bulldozed in recent decades, leaving only a sliver of its once magnificent forests intact. Flying over Sabah, a Malaysian state that covers about 10 percent of Borneo, the damage is clear. Oil palm plantations have metastasized across the landscape. Where forest remains, it is usually degraded. Rivers flow brown with mud.

mongabay.com (September 04, 2012).

Swiss to investigate UBS for alleged money laundering for Malaysian rainforest logging.