What happens when a friend of the highest Swiss federal prosecutor suddenly comes to the radar of his authority? This question arises just now, while the reelection of the federal prosecutor Michael Lauber is endangered by a disciplinary investigation because of the Fifa case. But that is not all: the delicate question concerns one of the most important cases currently being examined by the Federal Prosecutor's Office . And Lauber's friend is a politically exposed person, a so-called EPP.
The PEP is called René Brülhart. The 46-year-old is spearheading the anti-money laundering campaign, reported in the media: "James Bond of the Financial World". The native of Friborg chairs financial supervision at the Vatican and is well connected. From 201
Brülhart and Lauber met almost 20 years ago by establishing the Money Laundering Reporting Office in Liechtenstein. Since then, they are friends. "They meet at irregular intervals in the private sector," says a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutor.
The name of Brülhart now appears in the main proceedings of the Federal Prosecution concerning the billions of disappeared Malaysian sovereign fund 1MDB. Suspicion to test: for him, the fighter of money laundering, dirty money could have flowed. In a statement, Brülhart "refuses to speculate on my involvement in the 1MDB case or any other inappropriate or punishable activity".
2.5 million francs for the two companies Brülhart
The fact that Lauber's confidant fell under the radar of the federal prosecutor is as follows: René Brülhart is not only a financial supervisor at the Vatican, but also at the same time another industry, at least as secret: the acquisition of information. Frankly, he's working as an independent intelligence officer. The activist against money laundering was one of the clients, accused the federal prosecutor in connection with the 1MDB scandal for bribery, heavy money laundering, etc.
Brülhart runs his own company, RnB AG, in Zurich. He is also chairman of the board of directors and a third of the Swiss branch of TD International, whose proximity to the US intelligence community is well known. Payments to these two companies are why Brülhart is now a problem with the federal prosecutor.
Payments come from a site at the heart of the 1MDB scandal: the Petrosaudi oil company and its co-founder, Tarek Obaid. The dual Swiss and Saudi nationality, which has long had an excellent relationship with the royal family of Saud, would have diverted up to 1.8 billion dollars in funds of 1MDB. Obaid denies any wrongdoing by his Geneva lawyer. The presumption of innocence applies.
In the fall of 2015, it was announced by the Federal Prosecutor's Office in the 1MDB case. At that time, Petrosaudi d'Obaid used TD International's services in Brülhart and its trading partners. Over the next two years, payments were made, which now justifies a suspicion of money laundering: in 2016 and 2017, Petrosaudi transferred a total of about 2.5 million francs to TD International. In 2017, Petrosaudi's director, Tarek Obaid, made a new payment of around 50,000 francs to Rene Brülhart's RnB AG.
Lauber would have learned nothing for four months
What is this money for? The invoices that the Tamedia research group was able to consult are just the terms of reference of Petrosaudi for TD International. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. But neither Brülhart nor Obaid want to comment on the purpose of the payments. Brülhart writes: "In all mandates, I ask for a lot of integrity and confidentiality in my work, so I can not comment on any commercial relationship with potential clients (…)."
The bank Switzerland, where the 2.5 million Swiss francs Petrosaudi arrived for the two companies Brülhart, wanted to know the background of payments. clarify as well. Apparently she did not get a satisfactory explanation. That is why she went to the office for money laundering statements. In September 2018, a suspicious transaction was entrusted to the federal prosecutor, as explained by their spokesman. The "matching credits" were "immediately blocked". The federal prosecutor's office does not provide any information on the extent of the assets frozen or the current state of affairs.
Brülhart stresses now that neither he nor the companies mentioned are charged in proceedings initiated by the federal prosecutor or in other criminal proceedings. He points out that "criminal prosecution authorities often seize the accounts of uninvolved third parties who have nothing to do with the allegations under investigation".
Video: Lauber counterattack
"It's absurd": Michael Lauber at the press conference in Bern. Video: Keystone
However, it is also rare for funds to be frozen in the companies of a public money laundering company. And even more rarely that it is about a confidant of the head of the striking authority. The question then arises: what do federal prosecutors do when one of his friends presents himself in such a delicate context? And this only in a key folder.
According to the federal prosecutor's office, nothing happened once the assets were closed. In the presentation of the authority, it took about four months to internally recognize the explosive nature of the suspicious transaction report. It was only in January 2019 that internal control and management were informed "in the course of further processing" and "because of René Brülhart's official function in the area of money laundering." money, "writes the spokesperson. So: also the federal prosecutor Lauber. It is unclear how the suspicious transaction report has since disappeared.
Another question is unresolved: Has the Petrosaudi oil company promised direct access to the federal prosecutor through TD International and Brülhart? According to the newspaper "Le Temps", negotiations for an agreement between the Federal Prosecutor's Office and Petrosaudi began in the spring of 2018. Such settlements often constitute elegant solutions for defendants in criminal proceedings, insofar as they greatly shorten hearings and preliminary judgments.
Brülhart organized meetings with the Swiss intelligence services
Was such an agreement, which had never happened before, a problem in the occasional meetings of the federal prosecutor with his old confidant? The spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office denies: A private exchange "the federal prosecutor does not comment on the criminal proceedings". In addition, there was no meeting between the laubers and Obaid: "The federal prosecutor Michael Lauber has not met any organs of Petrosaudi, which are under the umbrella of the law. 1MDB case the accused, nor any other Petrosaudi representatives or their legal representatives. "
This Tarek Obaid search for proximity with the Swiss authorities, this is certainly not exaggerated. "The Time" also revealed that Oaid had met with Federal Intelligence Service (NDB) officers for months before the end of 2017. The French-speaking Swiss newspaper asked if he was looking for that contact "because It was necessary to win the goodwill of the federal authorities ".
Brülhart writes that he is free to advise other clients in addition to his papal mission, provided that there is no conflict of interest "  Further research shows that René Brülhart was present at a meeting between Obaid and NDB Deputy Director Paul Zinniker at Zurich Airport. It was also the Vatican man who had organized the secret meeting. The NDB took up as little space as Brülhart.
For the Papal States, it does not seem to be a problem to know that his ash-laden whitener was supporting an alleged launderer side by side. Tommaso Di Ruzza, director of Vatican Financial Services, said his authority was not commenting on "speculation" about his president's "presumptive mandates". Brülhart is not actively active for the authority and fulfills its mandate "with a high degree of professionalism and integrity".
Brülhart writes that he is free, in addition to his papal mission, to "advise other clients in the absence of conflict of interest". "Without the highest standards of legal compliance and ethics," says James Bond of the Financial World, "it would be impossible for me to credibly assume responsible mandates such as the Financial Services Bureau of the World Bank. Vatican."
Collaboration: Catherine Boss and Oliver Zihlmann
This text is from the last issue. Read all articles in the e-paper SonntagsZeitung: App for iOS – App for Android – Web-App
Created: 12.05.2019, 19:22 Uhr