As part of its ongoing internal control procedures, UBS in Zurich has identified a business relationship with a suspected connection to the family of the late Nigerian Dictator Sani Abacha. UBS has reported this suspicion to the Swiss Federal Banking Commission and the Money Laundering Reporting Office.
In 1996, a British citizen resident in London who is a reputable and longstanding UBS client, introduced to UBS a company in which he along with two Nigerian business partners held interests. When questioned by the bank, the client credibly made the assurance that his business partners had no political background or interests. Between 1996 and 1999, various payments into and out of the account of the company in question were made to and from other international banks. Since August 1999, the account has not seen any noticeable movement and its current balance stands at approximately USD 60 million (it is not known what share of the balance each of the three business partners hold). The longstanding UBS client, who held full power of attorney, exclusively represented the company.
After ascertaining one of the false names used by one of Abacha’s sons, UBS requested further information. The client strongly denied that the connections of his business partners were in any way related to the Abacha family. When further clarifications were not forthcoming, UBS conducted additional internal investigations, and now suspects that at least part of the money in the accounts belongs to Abacha’s sons.
UBS has therefore blocked the accounts in question and reported them to the Money Laundering Reporting Office so that it can make further official investigations. In addition UBS informed the Swiss Federal Banking Commission.
UBS Switzerland Chief Risk Officer Hans-Peter Bauer said: “It is a strict UBS policy that such suspect business connections are to be avoided under all circumstances. We deeply regret that this relationship with UBS was not prevented at the outset and was not discovered earlier. However, we are satisfied with the quality of our internal controls. If our ongoing investigations reveal that there was any improper behavior within UBS then we will take appropriate action. Our move to actively and promptly inform the authorities and the public underlines the fact that UBS is determined to avoid such relationships.
UBS will support the authorities in their further investigation.