U.S. officials unveiled criminal charges on Thursday against two former Goldman Sachs bankers over the scandal-plagued Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, raising fresh questions about corporate culture at the prestigious investment bank.
Leissner, a former top Goldman banker in Asia who led Goldman Sachs' bond offerings for the fund, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing Goldman's internal accounting controls, according to prosecutors.
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.
These are the first criminal charges brought in the case, and the indictment accuses the men of laundering dirty money through the US financial system by purchasing luxury New York City real estate, artwork from an unnamed New York-based auction houses, and by funding unspecified major Hollywood productions.
Goldman Sachs, which made hundreds of millions from their work with the fund, denies any wrongdoing. The banker, Andrea Vella, was put on leave in October, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The sovereign wealth fund was set up in 2009 to pursue investment and development projects for the economic benefit of Malaysia. The justice department's kleptocracy asset recovery initiative has already filed civil charges aimed at seizing assets allegedly bought with embezzled 1MDB funds, including a $39m mansion in the Los Angeles hills and a $30m penthouse in Manhattan overlooking Central Park.
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.More news: United States weeks away from responding to Khashoggi murder: Pompeo
His deputy, Ng, was arrested in Malaysia as federal prosecutors in the United States laid out conspiracy allegations related to Goldman Sachs's lucrative fundraising for Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB.
Some of those allegations were described in civil forfeiture complaints filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles previous year.
Since the election, Malaysian authorities have brought 38 charges against Najib.
At least six countries, including Malaysia, the United States and Switzerland, have been investigating alleged thefts from 1MDB.
Goldman has repeatedly played down its role in the scandal, saying it was unaware of how money from the fund was being used. 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.
Goldman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative for Mr. The BBC has not yet been able to contact a lawyer representing him. Both Leissner and Ng left the bank over a year ago.