Bank faces probe over Malaysian gold bribe claims

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THE MALAYSIAN opposition leader yesterday called for a government probe into claims that a minister received dollars 10,000 in gold coins from Standard Chartered.

Standard is investigating the disappearance of the coins, after evidence emerged that they were given as a trade sample by its Mocatta gold bullion subsidiary to an unnamed Malaysian minister.

Lim Kit Siang, the opposition leader, said: 'The Malaysian government should ask for full information from Standard Chartered to establish whether the allegation is true and, if so, action should be taken against the minister.'

The investigation is part of a wide-ranging inquiry into commissions that may have been paid to Malaysian and Philippines officials by Mocatta. It is particularly sensitive in the wake of the trade embargo against British companies that followed previous allegations of corruption in Malaysia.

Standard Chartered said on Monday that it had uncovered a 'small number of unusual transactions' involving the Far Eastern operations of its Mocatta subsidiary, as part of its attempt to improve controls within the group.

It uncovered 'discrepancies in expense claims', which included 'gifts to individuals in certain countries to facilitate business, a practice contrary to bank rules and procedures'.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian arm of Standard Chartered said: 'While the bank's investigation to date has failed to prove either that any specific gifts were actually made, or that the expenses were genuinely incurred, the bank is continuing to investigate the position.'

Standard is one of the two biggest foreign banks in Malaysia. In Hong Kong, Standard's group executive director, John McFarlane, said there should not be any more skeletons in the closet for the bank.

'I think everything that we were concerned about is out now,' he said, but he added: 'I can't guarantee that.'

He said the public relations disasters should not affect the company's profitability. Despite a series of scandals in India, Hong Kong and this week in South-east Asia, clients were likely to shrug off the events as irrelevant, and the effect on results would be immaterial, he said.