Sat, Nov 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Financier, two bankers charged in 1MDB scheme

FIRST US PROSECUTION:The indictment said that Goldman Sachs raised about US$6.5 billion through bond offerings for the Malaysian fund

AP, WASHINGTON

The US Department of Justice on Thursday announced charges against a fugitive Malaysian financier and two former Goldman Sachs bankers accused in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund created to spur economic development projects in that country.

A three-count indictment charges Low Taek Jho (劉特佐), also known as Jho Low, with misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the US and to help finance Hollywood movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street.

Also charged was former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and to conspiring to violate foreign bribery laws.

Another former bank official, Ng Chong Hwa (吳崇華), 51, also known as Roger Ng, was arrested earlier on Thursday in Malaysia and accused of circumventing internal accounting controls, prosecutors said.

Leissner’s attorney did not return messages seeking comment.

It was not clear if Ng had a lawyer.

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs, which the indictment says raised about US$6.5 billion through bond offerings for the fund, said the firm “continues to cooperate with all authorities investigating this matter.”

Police in Malaysia said in July that Low had fled Macau to an unknown destination.

Before facing criminal charges, Low became well known in the New York City and Los Angeles club scenes. In 2012, he threw a lavish 31st birthday bash attended by Leonardo DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities that the Wall Street Journal called the “wildest party [Las] Vegas ever saw.”

Low, who remains at large, issued a statement through a spokesman maintaining his innocence.

“Mr Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him,” the statement said.

Leissner acknowledged paying millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, court records showed.

He was ordered to forfeit US$43.7 million as part of his guilty plea.

The set of charges represent the first criminal prosecutions in the US arising from the epic corruption scandal at the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The US Department of Justice in 2016 moved to recover more than US$1 billion that it said had been stolen, filing a civil complaint that sought the forfeiture of property and paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

The fund was set up in 2009 by then-Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to promote economic development. It relied primarily on debt to fund investment and development projects and was overseen by senior Malaysian government officials, court records showed.

Najib chaired its advisory board and as finance minister held veto power over its activities. Low, a friend of Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, had no official role at 1MDB, but had considerable influence over its dealings and was in frequent contact with Najib, US authorities have said.

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