US charges Malaysian financier in multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal

US charges Malaysian financier in multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal

Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and former Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng Chong Hwa were indicted on charges of conspiracy to launder billions of dollars in illegal proceeds from Malaysia's 1MDB wealth fund, USA federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said yesterday.

Charges under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act have also been filed against Jho Low and his father Tan Sri Larry Low at the Sessions Court in Putrajaya last August, relating to the movement of several hundred million United States dollars in the BSI Bank in Singapore.

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

The unidentified co-conspirator is Andrea Vella, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was set up in 2009 to promote economic development.

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Low, said to be a central figure behind the alleged embezzlement of billions of dollars from 1MDB, reached out as recently as last week, Daim Zainuddin told broadcaster Astro Awani.

The U.S. Justice Department alleges there were four phases to the conspiracy that all involved the use of layers of foreign bank accounts and shell companies to launder the money.

Roger Ng, the other charged former Goldman banker, was arrested in Malaysia at the request of US authorities and is expected to be extradited, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the prosecution. Prosecutors charge that Malaysian officials stole billions from the fund to buy property, art and other items including investments in movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street.

U.S. prosecutors previously filed civil asset forfeiture suits for assets allegedly bought with some of the stolen funds. Prosecutors from the Justice Department's money-laundering and asset-recovery division also played an active role in the foreign bribery investigation. Najib accuses the new administration of seeking political vengeance and has vowed to clear his name.

At least six countries, including Malaysia, the United States and Switzerland, have been investigating alleged thefts from 1MDB.

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As part of the three-count indictment, Ng is also charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA by circumventing the internal accounting controls of a major New York-headquartered financial institution (Financial Institution), which underwrote more than US$6 billion (RM25 billion) in bonds issued by 1MDB in three separate bond offerings in 2012 and 2013, while Ng was employed at the Financial Institution as a managing director.

Goldman did not immediately have a comment Thursday.

The bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The BBC has not yet been able to contact a lawyer representing him.

Both Mr. Leissner and Mr. Ng left the bank more than a year ago.

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