Former Goldman Sachs bankers and Jho Low charged in Malaysian financial scandal

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The US Department of Justice has said a total of US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion) was stolen from 1MDB through a complex web of transactions and fraudulent shell companies.

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.

Prosecutors say Low, Ng, and Leissner conspired to launder the proceeds of fraud involving 1MDB through the US financial system.

Mustian reported from NY.

The two bankers were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The set of charges represent the first criminal prosecutions in the USA arising from the epic corruption scandal at the state investment fund known as 1MDB.

The scandal has raised fresh questions about corporate culture at the prestigious investment bank.

In another court filing, Tim Leissner, 48, a former Goldman Sachs partner, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing internal accounting controls. Also charged was Jho Low, the Malaysian financier whom prosecutors have depicted as being a mastermind of a scheme to misappropriate money from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Criminal scheme, Hollywood films and exquisite artwork.

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The fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was set up in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development. It says initially a $1 billion investment was diverted and in subsequent phases money was siphoned from sales of 1MDB bonds.

Roger Ng, the other charged former Goldman banker, was arrested in Malaysia at the request of USA authorities and is expected to be extradited, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the prosecution.

"They also allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of their criminal conduct through the U.S. financial system by purchasing, among other things, luxury residential real estate in New York City and elsewhere, and artwork from a New York-based auction house, and by funding major Hollywood films".

Low and Leissner were also caught in intercepted online chats in 2014 discussing how to "suck up" to an 1MDB official, and planning to send "cakes" to a woman they believed was the wife of another government official, per court docs.

A spokesman for Low did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

Ng was also indicted for conspiring to violate the internal controls at Goldman Sachs, which underwrote about US$6.5 billion in bonds issued by 1MDB, the USA government said.

At the same time, Ng, Leissner and others allegedly received large bonuses and enhanced their own reputations at Goldman, the department said.

But more than US$2.7 billion went to kickbacks and bribes, according to the charges. 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".

The 1MDB investigations in the United States and Malaysia have gathered pace since Najib unexpectedly lost a general election in May to Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power 15 years after he retired as prime minister.