Malaysia is Going After Goldman Sachs in Criminal Case
“Having held themselves out as the pre-eminent global adviser … the highest standards are expected of Goldman Sachs. They have fallen far short of any standard.”
On Monday, Malaysian authorities pressed charges against Goldman Sachs and two former executives. The Wall Street bank was allegedly involved in a multibillion dollar conspiracy to launder money from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB.
The bank is allegedly cooperating in investigations, and said in a statement: “We believe these charges are misdirected and we will vigorously defend them and look forward to the opportunity to present our case.”
First Time Goldman Sachs Itself is Targeted
Although U.S. authorities have previously filed charges against former employees, this marks the first time that Goldman Sachs itself has been accused. According to Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas, the bank is accused of breaches of security laws which mislead investors, causing the government to solicit billions of dollars in fines.
“Having held themselves out as the pre-eminent global adviser … the highest standards are expected of Goldman Sachs. They have fallen far short of any standard,” said Thomas in a statement.
According to U.S. and Malaysian prosecutors, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly stole billions of dollars during the course of several years with the assistance of the bond sales that Goldman Sachs organized for 1MDB.
As a result of the scandal, Najib and his coalition were defeated in a historic election earlier in the year. The scandal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report.
Possible Prison Time for Goldman Sachs Executives
Former Goldman executives Roger Ng Chong Hwa and Tim Leissner are expected to serve up to ten years in prison. After being charged in the U.S. with attempting to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Ng was arrested in Malaysia in November.
Leissner, former Goldman Southeast Asia chairman, is still awaiting his sentence in the U.S. for pleading guilty to charges of bribery and mishandling 1MDB money. Leissner is married to American model and reality start Kimora Lee Simmons.
Ng and Leissner colluded with Low Taek Jho, a Najib associate and a primary engineer of the 1MDB scheme. According to Thomas, they convinced the Malaysian government to use Goldman Sachs as the “arranger of the bond deals.” Thomas said that both the bank and the government officials were aware that money would be stolen.
“As has been stated previously, Mr. Low will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and there is no independent legal process,” Low’s spokesperson said in a statement on Monday. “It is clear that Mr. Low cannot get a fair trial in Malaysia, where the regime has proven numerous times that they have no interest in the rule of law.”
Goldman Cries ‘Rogue Employees’
Goldman described Ng and Leissner as rogue employees: “These are guys who evaded our safeguards, and lie; stuff like that’s going to happen,” said Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s former chief executive.
The bank said on Monday: “Certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to Goldman Sachs, outside counsel and others about the use of proceeds from these transactions.”
When Leissner pleaded guilty, however, he said that the 1MDB affair was “very much in line of its culture of Goldman Sachs to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees.”