Financier and two former Goldman bankers charged in vast Malaysian fraud case

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

Jhlo Low, ex-Goldman bankers accused of laundering billions in stolen funds

Between 2009 and 2014, top executives and associates of Najib looted $4.5 billion from the fund, laundering it through the U.S., Singapore, Switzerland and other countries, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up the fund, in which Low played a key role.

The DoJ on Thursday (Nov 1) charged Low along with two former Goldman Sachs bankers. "The charges that were leveled, there were no indication or no accusation of benefiting, personally benefiting, from the decisions we have taken".

Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to comment.

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.

Low, known as Jho Low, remains at large, prosecutors said in a statement.

Prosecutors alleged bribes and kickbacks were paid in connecting with Goldman's bond offerings on 1MDB's behalf, which generated some $600 million in fees for the bank.

Low, Ng and Leissner are the first individuals to be charged in the U.S. in relation to the scandal at the state investment arm.

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The former bankers, Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, were named Thursday by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, according to The New York Times. He denies any wrongdoing.

USA prosecutors had painted Low as a bon vivant and a central figure who set up shell companies and arranged the transfers of tens of millions of dollars to pay Malaysian government officials, while Singapore investigators have called him a "key person of interest".

Goldman Sachs has said it is fully cooperating with the investigation and that it had no knowledge of how the money from the fund was being used. Working with the FBI, Indonesian authorities seized Low's $250 million luxury yacht Equanimity off Bali in February and Malaysia's government is now auctioning it.

Prosecutors have previously gone after assets they claim were tainted by monies stolen from hedge fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd - including targeting profits from the film The Wolf of Wall Street, a Bombardier jet, New York City and Los Angeles real estate, and works by Van Gogh and Claude Monet. In total, more than US$2.7 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to Malaysia and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing Goldman's internal accounting controls, according to prosecutors. Mr. Ng reported to Mr. Leissner at Goldman.

The money was deposited in shell companies beneficially owned and controlled by Low, Leissner, Ng, and other co-conspirators, including a high-level official at the Abu Dhabi entity that guaranteed the Project Magnolia bonds and a close relative of Malaysian Official #1, the depatment said.

Ng, a managing director at Goldman, and Leissner, who worked as Southeast Asia chairman and managing director at Goldman, sought on three occasions to make Low a formal client, but were rebuffed because officials in the compliance group had "concerns" about the source of the person's wealth and deemed he would not be a "suitable" client.

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