Thursday, 15 November, 2018

U.S. charges 2 ex-Goldman Sachs bankers in Malaysia's 1MDB scandal

Jho Low contacted Mahathir's adviser last week to seek immunity: Report Jhlo Low, ex-Goldman bankers accused of laundering billions in stolen funds
Gerardo Duncan | 02 November, 2018, 15:00

Also unsealed yesterday in federal court in the Eastern District of NY was the guilty plea of Tim Leissner, the former South-east Asia Chairman and participating managing director of the Financial Institution, to a two-count criminal information charging Leissner with conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the FCPA by both paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing the internal accounting controls of the Financial Institution while he was employed by it.

Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Ng, a managing director at Goldman, and Leissner, who worked as Southeast Asia chairman and managing director at Goldman, sought on three occasions to make Low a formal client, but were rebuffed because officials in the compliance group had "concerns" about the source of the person's wealth and deemed he would not be a "suitable" client.

Ng was arrested yesterday in Malaysia by his officers to assist the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in its investigations, Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Amar Singh Ishar Singh told The Star.

It is a stark charge against the former Goldman employees, who until now have faced no charges of wrongdoing in the years-long money laundering and embezzlement saga involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, or 1MDB.

The US Department of Justice has said a total of US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion) was stolen from 1MDB through a complex web of transactions and fraudulent shell companies.

A Sydney-based public relations firm representing an unnamed spokesman for the Penang-born better known as Jho Low issued a media statement telling the public that he is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Goldman has not yet responded to the indictments.

Lawyers for Leissner and Low could not immediately be reached for comment. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the scandal "kleptocracy at its worst".

About $4bn disappeared from the fund and the claims of corruption led to Malaysia's former prime minister, Najib Razak, being charged with corruption, charges he has denied.

Low and Leissner were also caught in intercepted online chats in 2014 discussing how to "suck up" to an 1MDB official, and planning to send "cakes" to a woman they believed was the wife of another government official, per court docs. Working with the FBI, Indonesian authorities seized Low's $250 million luxury yacht Equanimity off Bali in February and Malaysia's government is now auctioning it.

Prosecutors say Low, Ng, and Leissner conspired to launder the proceeds of fraud involving 1MDB through the US financial system.

Roughly $681m of that money is alleged to have ended up in the private bank accounts of Najib, who is facing 38 charges of corruption in an ongoing investigation into the 1MDB scandal. Police have also seized hundreds of luxury handbags, jewelry and cash - worth more than $266 million - during raids on apartments linked to Najib's family.

Since the election, Malaysian authorities have brought 38 charges against Najib.

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