USA charges Jho Low, ex- Goldman bankers over 1MDB scandal

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's adviser Daim Zainuddin had previously said Low attempted to contact him several times on Sept 6

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

According to Astro Awani, Mr Daim said he demanded that Low return to Malaysia and provide names involved in the corruption scandal. Leissner has been ordered to forfeit $43.7m as a result of his crimes.

Goldman provided an array of services to the fund, including helping it sell billions of dollars in bonds to investors, earning about US$600-million in fees for its work. The charges could put pressure on Goldman - the primary bond underwriter for the fund at the centre of the case, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB - to reach a potential settlement with the federal authorities.

Low, Ng, Leissner, and others also conspired to bribe government officials in Malaysia, including at 1MDB - a state-owned and controlled fund meant to fund economic development projects in the country - and Abu Dhabi to keep lucrative deals to themselves, federal prosecutors said.

Also charged was a former Goldman Sachs banker, Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and to conspiring to violate foreign bribery laws.

The charges are the first arising from the epic corruption scandal that has roiled politics in Malaysia, leading to criminal charges against former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Lawyers representing Low and Leissner did not respond to requests for comment.

Until two weeks ago, Mr. Vella was Goldman's co-head of investment banking in Asia.

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The money was supposed to support development projects, but prosecutors say the three men "conspired to launder" more than $2.7bn through the United States financial system, and used this money to pay bribes and "for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives".

"The US Department of Justice specifically states that the charges in the indictment are allegations, and that Mr Low is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty".

Charges were filed against Low and another Malaysian Roger Ng Chong Hwa in NY yesterday.

Goldman Sachs, which said it is cooperating in the probe, wasn't named in the DOJ criminal documents, but was referred to as "financial institution #1".

Under one scheme involving a 2012 "Project Magnolia" bond offering by 1MDB, Low allegedly told the ex-Goldman bankers they needed to bribe officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to guarantee that the transaction went through.

While US prosecutors have previously filed civil asset forfeiture suits for assets allegedly bought with some of the stolen funds, these are the first criminal charges the Justice Department has brought against individuals in the case under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law targeting official bribery overseas.

Najib chaired its advisory board and as finance minister held veto power over its activities.

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