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

02 November, 2018, 09:56 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • AFP pic

United States prosecutors unveiled criminal charges on Thursday against two former Goldman Sachs Inc bankers and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho tied to the Malaysia 1MDB sovereign wealth fund scandal.

The indictments unsealed Thursday against him, ex-bankers Tim Leissner and Ng Chong Hwa, were the first U.S. criminal charges over the huge fraud, which has spawned investigations around the world.

Low, Ng, Leissner, and others also conspired to bribe government officials in Malaysia, including at 1MDB - a state-owned and controlled fund meant to fund economic development projects in the country - and Abu Dhabi to keep lucrative deals to themselves, federal prosecutors said. At that point, according to a Reuters report, Mr. Vella and his co-head were replaced by another veteran Goldman banker.

The 1MDB scandal refers to a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund set up in 2009 by Najib to promote economic development in the country.

Prosecutors have previously gone after assets they claim were tainted by monies stolen from hedge fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd - including targeting profits from the film The Wolf of Wall Street, a Bombardier jet, New York City and Los Angeles real estate, and works by Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

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.

Some of those allegations were described in civil forfeiture complaints filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles a year ago.

"A few months after this chat, a bank account owned and controlled by Leissner and his relative was used to transfer approximately $4.1 million to a high-end NY jeweler, in part, to pay for gold jewelry for the wife of Malaysian Official #1".

Since being ousted, Najib has been hit with a barrage of charges linked to the scandal. The new Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has moved quickly to investigate the alleged theft of billions of dollars from the investment fund, which was created under Mr. Najib. Malaysia is also seeking to recover $1.46 billion it has paid so far.

Goldman acted as the primary bond underwriter for the fund.

Low allegedly played a central role in plundering 1MDB. The firm has said it was co-operating with the investigation. It has seized 240 million Singapore dollars ($180 million) of property and cash and says about half of that belonged to Low and his immediate family.

The BBC has contacted Goldman Sachs for comment. Low did not have an immediate comment. Mr. Ng reported to Mr. Leissner at Goldman. It was not immediately clear if Ng had a lawyer.



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