US$6.5 billion raised through three 1MDB bond deals he helped organise with Ng was siphoned off to pay kickbacks and bribes to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.
Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Tim Leissner, who admitted helping rip off hundreds of millions of dollars from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, testified he also stole tens of millions of dollars from his accomplices in the fraud.
Leissner, the key US government witness in the bribery trial of his former colleague Roger Ng, testified Thursday that “a large portion” of the US$6.5 billion raised through three 1MDB bond deals he helped organise with Ng was siphoned off to pay kickbacks and bribes to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.
But the US$60 million in kickbacks he kept for himself wasn’t enough, Leissner said.
When Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low), the alleged architect of the massive fraud, asked Leissner to “hold” €145 million (US$162 million) in a shell company in Mauritius, Leissner saw an opportunity.
Because much of his money was invested in illiquid assets, Leissner told the jury he kept US$80 million for himself. He said he then borrowed another US$1.25 million from Ng, his subordinate at Goldman.
Leissner said his arrest in 2018 prevented him from repaying Ng any of the money. “I had the intention to pay him back over time but I didn’t have a chance,” he told the jury.
Ng is accused of a money-laundering conspiracy and bribery stemming from the scam at 1MDB. Leissner pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiring to violate US anti-bribery laws, and agreed to cooperate with the US with the hope of getting a more lenient sentence.
In his fourth day of testimony yesterday, Leissner, 52, delved into his personal life, including how he lied, stole and cheated.
It’s a common practice for prosecutors to highlight the negative aspects of their witnesses to get ahead of anything that could be revealed by defence lawyers during cross-examination.
Leissner said he used some of the money he stole from Low to buy a US$50 million boat, part of the Inter Milan football team, and a Manhattan apartment at 68th Street and Madison Avenue. Some of the money was also used as a down payment on a Los Angeles home he had planned to share with his new wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, whom he met in 2013, Leissner said.
He said he also invested in a multi-platform media company called All Def Digital Inc and in Celsius Holdings Inc, an energy drink.
Ng, 49, has pleaded not guilty and his trial is expected to last as long as six weeks. Leissner is expected to resume his testimony on Monday.
On Thursday, Leissner also confessed he was twice married to two women at the same time. He said he “faked” a divorce decree in order to marry Simmons while still being married to then-wife, Judy Chan Leissner. He also told jurors he’d earlier falsified a divorce document in order to marry Judy Chan in Hong Kong around the year 2000.
“I photoshopped the divorce document,” he said of his 2014 marriage to Simmons, a fashion designer.
“Did Judy Chan know?” asked prosecutor Drew Rolle.
“Yes,” he said.
“Did Kimora Lee Simmons know that?” Rolle asked.
“No,” Leissner said.
Leissner said Chan wasn’t as forgiving. In 2014, he wanted to put a US$900,000 down payment on a home in Los Angeles for Simmons but said, “Judy did not want to make any transfers related to my new family life in Los Angeles.”
Instead, Leissner said he faked an email claiming Low needed money.
“It didn’t work,” with Chan, he said. “I think she did some research on the Internet and found out I was trying to buy this house.” – FMT