USA charges Malaysian financier, Goldman Sachs bankers over 1MDB

Jho Low contacted Mahathir's adviser last week to seek immunity: Report

Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn announced that Tim Leissner, former partner for Goldman Sachs in Asia, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million. His wife, Rosmah Mansor, has been charged with money laundering.

An estimated US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, the US Justice Department has alleged.

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

Goldman Sachs itself was not charged.

About $4bn disappeared from the fund and the claims of corruption led to Malaysia's former prime minister, Najib Razak, being charged with corruption, charges he has denied.

Yesterday, Reuters reported a three-count criminal indictment was unsealed in federal court in the Eastern District of NY charging Low Taek Jho, also known as "Jho Low", and Roger Ng with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB funds and for conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials.

Mr Low has previously denied charges filed in Malaysia, adding that it would be "impossible" for him to receive a fair trial there. It says initially a $1 billion investment was diverted and in subsequent phases money was siphoned from sales of 1MDB bonds. The firm has said it was co-operating with the investigation.

The documents refer to a third unnamed Goldman official who is an Italian national.

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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 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.

A family friend of Mr Najib, Mr Low had no official role at 1MDB but had considerable influence over its dealings and was often in contact with Mr Najib, according to United States authorities. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

Some of the funds went to finance the movie, "The Wolf of Wall Street", a 2013 Oscar-nominated film about Jordan Belfort, a corrupt stockbroker who was sent to prison for fraud, the government said. It is unclear if Mr Ng has a lawyer.

His deputy, Ng, was arrested in Malaysia as federal prosecutors in the U.S. laid out conspiracy allegations related to Goldman Sachs's lucrative fundraising for Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB.

As the bond offerings proceeded, the two men concealed Low's involvement from Goldman Sachs officials. Such payments were "known to Ng, Leissner and other employees" of the bank, according to prosecutors.

He is cooperating with DOJ investigators, The Wall Street Journal reported. 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.

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