ZURICH Aug 31 Swiss prosecutors have opened a
criminal money laundering probe into UBS after an
environmental campaign group filed a complaint accusing it of
links to the proceeds of alleged illegal logging in Malaysia.
The investigation could be a new embarrassment for the Swiss
bank, fined for helping clients dodge U.S. taxes in 2009 and
facing similar accusations - which it denies - in Germany. It
comes as Switzerland is trying to clean up its image as a haven
for ill-gotten gains.
A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors said they had opened a
criminal investigation into allegations of money laundering.
She confirmed that UBS was being investigated in connection
with its relationship with Musa Aman, chief minister of
Malaysia's Borneo state of Sabah.
He was accused in the complaint brought by Switzerland's
Bruno Manser Fund in May of links to illegal logging in Borneo.
He did not respond to phone calls, but has previously dismissed
graft allegations as a political conspiracy.
UBS said it was cooperating with the investigation.
"UBS complies with the rules and regulations in all the
markets where it operates," a spokesman said, noting the bank is
obliged to report to authorities fighting money laundering if it
finds evidence it is holding assets of criminal origin.
In its complaint, the Bruno Manser Fund, which campaigns to
save tropical rainforests in Borneo and the people who inhabit
them, accused UBS of breaching its duty of care by accepting
more than $90 million it said was earned from logging in Sabah.
Citing documents it presented to Swiss prosecutors, it said the
money was banked at UBS in Hong Kong and Zurich.
(Reporting by Katherina Bart in Zurich and Niki Koswanage in
Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)