Malaysia today filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs (GS) and two of the bank’s former employees tied to the ongoing 1MDB investigation.
Malaysia’s attorney general filed criminal charges under the country’s securities laws against Goldman Sachs, its former bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, former 1MDB employee Jasmine Loo and financier Jho Low in connection with the bond offerings, Reuters reports.
“The charges arise from the commission and abetment of false or misleading statements by all the accused in order to dishonestly misappropriate $2.7 billion from the proceeds of three bonds issued by the subsidiaries of 1MDB, which were arranged and underwritten by Goldman Sachs,” Attorney General Tommy Thomas said in a statement. The Malaysian government will seek fines in excess of both the $2.7 billion of allegedly misappropriated funds and the $600 million in fees received by Goldman for the 1MDB deals, as well as jail terms of up to 10 years for each of the individuals accused.
Goldman Sachs has consistently denied any wrongdoing. These are the first criminal charges for the company in the scandal, in which individuals including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak have been accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, or 1MDB. The U.S. bank had been in charge of selling more than $6 billion in bonds issued by the fund.
Goldman will “vigorously defend” against the charges, spokesperson Edward Naylor told Bloomberg in an email. “We believe these charges are misdirected,” he said, adding that the bank continues to cooperate with authorities.
In early November, the U.S. Department of Justice accused former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng of conspiring to launder money from the investment fund. Another former employee of the bank, Tim Leissner, was revealed to have pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering. Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low, is described by investigators as the mastermind of the scheme. Funds were diverted to bribes, New York City real estate, and production costs for the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” according to filing documents. Former Fugees rapper Prakazrel (Pras) Michel opened a number of bank accounts to receive funds, the department says. The Justice Department is still investigating the bank’s role in the scandal.
You can’t make this stuff up. For all the background, read Tom Wright and Bradley Hope’s Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World, which made our list of the best books of the year.