US authorities have charged two ex-Goldman Sachs bankers Ng Chong Hwa and Tim Leissner along with Malaysian financier Low Taek for laundering billions of funds from Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development (1MDB).
Hwa served as the managing director at Goldman Sachs, while Leissner was its former chairman for Southeast Asia.
The trio were accused of bribing government officials in Malaysia to win business from 1MDB. The scandle saw Malaysia’s then prime minister, Najib Razak, channel as much as £700 million from the government-run development company to his personal bank accounts. Razak has since been arrested with 17 counts of money-laundering and tax evasion. He denies the charges.
They were also found to have laundered the proceeds through real estate purchases and financial assistance to Hollywood films.
Leissner pleaded guilty to laundering money and breaching the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by bribing officials. As a result, he was ordered to pay a penalty of $43.7m.
Hwa was arrested in Malaysia, while Taek remains at large.
According to authorities, the bankers worked on three bond offerings that raised nearly $6.5bn for the fund and fetched the bank $600m. Goldman Sachs had underwritten the bond which which covered three deals spanning 2012 and 2013.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) found the money had been put into Van Gogh paintings, Californian property and movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street. Goldman took $593m in fees from the transactions according to the DoJ
“As alleged, Low’s close relationships with high-ranking government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi were central to the scheme,” the Department of Justice said.
Several major banks including Credit Suisse, UBS, and Rothschild have been fined or reprimanded in connection to the 1MDB scandal.
Swiss lender BSI had to shutter its Singapore business over involvement in the scandal. Falcon Private Bank’s Singapore licence was also withdrawn in connection to 1MDB.