Swiss private bank Falcon replaces CEO with ex-Credit Suisse exec

September 1, 2016 5:19 AM EDT

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By Oliver Hirt and Stanley Carvalho

ZURICH/ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Switzerland's Falcon Private Bank has appointed ex-Credit Suisse executive Walter Berchtold as chief executive to replace Eduardo Leemann, the wealth manager said on Thursday, confirming what sources earlier told Reuters.

Zurich-based Falcon, owned by Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), said Leemann, 60, had decided last year to stand down.

"Eduardo Leemann informed the board (at the) beginning of 2015 that he wanted to retire from the operational management at the age of 60," Chairman Murtadha M. al Hashmi said in a statement.

Reuters reported the management change earlier on Thursday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Falcon is under scrutiny in Singapore after the central bank disclosed in late July that an onsite inspection of the group in April 2016 found "substantial breaches" of anti-money laundering regulations.

Singapore said Falcon's management of key client relationships were done out of the bank's head office in Switzerland and that the examination was still ongoing.

The inspection was part of Singapore's money laundering probe linked to Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), under which the central bank has questioned several banks since last year.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that investigators had traced nearly $700 million from an account at Falcon in Singapore to accounts in Malaysia they believed belonged to Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak.

IMDB, founded by Najib in 2009 shortly after he came to office, is being investigated for money-laundering in several countries.

Both 1MDB and Najib have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Swiss newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft quoted Leemann as saying the 1MDB case had no influence on the leadership change. Falcon said in July it was cooperating with Singaporean investigators looking into banks' ties to 1MDB.

Berchtold, 54, has been a member of Falcon's board since March 2015 and will take over as CEO from Oct. 1. Leemann will remain as a senior adviser, Falcon said.

Leemann joined Falcon, formerly AIG Private Bank, as CEO in 1997 before becoming chairman of the bank's board. He returned to Falcon's executive board in September 2008.

Berchtold was CEO of private banking at Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-biggest bank, from 2006 to 2011.

(Additional reporting and writing by Joshua Franklin in Zurich and by Saeed Azhar in Singapore; Editing by Michael Shields and David Holmes)



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