US DoJ Charges Jho Low, former Goldman Bankers Roger Ng, Tim Leissner over 1MDB

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The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) has charged two former Goldman Sachs bankers and Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, on Thursday (Nov 1) over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

The DoJ arrested former Goldman Sachs banker Ng Chong Hwa, also known as Roger Ng, in Malaysia on Thursday, while Jho Low remains at large, officials said in a press release.

Another ex-Goldman official, Tim Leissner, pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $43.7 million in restitution of ill-gotten gains.

Bloomberg

Ng is due in a Kuala Lumpur court later for a remand hearing.

The indictments and guilty plea constitute the first US indictments in the 1MDB case.

The men were charged with conspiring to launder billions of dollars from 1MDB and conspiring to bribe officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Ng was also charged with conspiring to violate the internal controls at Goldman Sachs, which underwrote more than $6 billion in bonds issued by 1MDB, the government said.

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.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes were subsequently paid to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. After the bond transaction was executed, more than $500 million of the bond proceeds were misappropriated into shell companies controlled by Low, Leissner, Ng and other co-conspirators, the government said.

Low is still at large and was last seen in China, reported the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

A spokesman for Low’s legal team said the fugitive businessman is maintaining his innocence of all charges.

“As noted in the indictment today, Mr Low held no formal position at 1MDB, nor was he ever employed by Goldman Sachs, or the governments of Malaysia or Abu Dhabi.

“Furthermore, the bond offerings detailed in the indictment were undertaken openly and lawfully between experienced, well-regulated financial institutions and government entities,” said the statement issued through Australian public relations consultancy Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs.

“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.

“Mr Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him,” it added.

This is the second time Low is being charged over 1MDB.

Malaysian police filed the first set of criminal charges on Aug 24 against Low and his father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng over money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

The charges for money laundering were brought against the father and son “in absentia” by the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) and the Attorney General’s Chambers. Warrants of arrest for both men were also sought.

Malaysian authorities have also applied for an Interpol red notice seeking assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong.