Friday, 16 November, 2018

U.S. charges Malaysian financier, Goldman Sachs bankers over 1MDB

Jho Low contacted Mahathir's adviser last week to seek immunity: Report Jhlo Low, ex-Goldman bankers accused of laundering billions in stolen funds
Glenn Montgomery | 02 November, 2018, 14:58

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.

The set of charges represent the first criminal prosecutions in the US arising from the epic corruption scandal at the state investment fund known as 1MDB.

The government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, in 2009.

An estimated $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, the United States justice department alleged. Among its services, it helped raise $6.5 billion for the fund and earned nearly $600 million in fees for the bond issuance.

The money was supposed to support development projects, but prosecutors say the three men "conspired to launder" more than $2.7bn through the USA financial system, and used this money to pay bribes and "for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives".

A lawyer for Leissner could not immediately be reached for comment.

US prosecutors allege that Malaysian Low Taek Jho, usually known as Jho Low, was a central figure who orchestrated the ransacking of 1MDB.

Goldman Sachs arranged bond offerings that helped the fund raise more than US$6 billion, much of which, according to global authorities, was squirrelled away in private accounts and used to buy yachts, paintings and high-end real estate.

According to the justice department, Low, Ng, Leissner and other conspirators regularly bribed government officials in order to maintain Goldman's lucrative contracts with 1MDB.

"He did not call me, but he called an officer of mine last week", Tun Daim Zainuddin, who chairs the country's Council of Eminent Persons, was quoted by broadcaster Astro Awani as saying in an interview on Wednesday. Malaysian officials have said Low is believed to be living in China.

Goldman has, in the past, repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and said it is cooperating fully with the authorities. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

The three-count indictment on Thursday charges Low Taek Jho of misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it to bribe foreign officials and to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the U.S. and to fund Hollywood film, including "The Wolf of Wall Street".

The 1MDB investigations in the United States and Malaysia have gathered pace since Najib unexpectedly lost a general election in May to Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power 15 years after he retired as prime minister.

An investigation by the Journal revealed millions linked to the fund ended up in Najib's personal bank accounts. Najib accuses the new administration of seeking political vengeance and has vowed to clear his name.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

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