1MDB: Roger Ng to be extradited to US

Charlene Craig
November 3, 2018

JHO Low, the Malaysian financer at the centre of the country's corruption scandal, and two other high-flying Goldman Sachs bankers were slapped with formal charges in the USA on Thursday for embezzling billions from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

Meanwhile, a United States court has allowed the sale of a private jet allegedly bought by Low with money taken from 1MDB, court filings show.

While the Justice Department has been investigating the 1MDB scandal for some time and has pursued civil lawsuits, these are the first criminal charges the department has brought against individuals related to the 1MDB scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal, which brought worldwide attention to the scandal itself in 2015.

The three-count indictment on Thursday charges Low Taek Jho of misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it to bribe foreign officials and to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the U.S. and to fund Hollywood film, including "The Wolf of Wall Street".

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The criminal charges are the first to be filed in the United States over one of the biggest financial scandals.

Goldman Sachs, which garnered US$600 million in fees and revenues from three 1MDB bond transactions detailed in the indictments, has said previously it has received subpoenas and requests for information on the case from various governments and regulatory bodies.

Goldman has, in the past, repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and said it is cooperating fully with the authorities. They both pleaded not guilty and will face trial next year. The new Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has moved quickly to investigate the alleged theft of billions of dollars from the investment fund, which was created under Mr. Najib. Leissner admitted to enriching himself far beyond what has been known, saying that more than $200 million in proceeds from 1MDB bonds flowed into accounts controlled by him and a relative.

A Malaysian-Chinese born on the island of Penang whose grandfather was born in southern China's Guangdong, Low describes himself on his website Jho-Low.com as a "global investor and philanthropist" with experience in many companies, financings and projects in media, entertainment, retailing, hospitality and real estate.

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According to the justice department, Low, Ng, Leissner and other conspirators regularly bribed government officials in order to maintain Goldman's lucrative contracts with 1MDB. Ng is expected to appear in a Malaysian court on Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Low held no formal position at the 1MDB fund, which is insolvent but still exists pending payment of its billions of dollars in debts.

In a statement dated November 1 that reiterated earlier comments, Low asked that people "keep an open mind" and said evidence will vindicate him.

Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr. Leissner could not be reached for comment. An estimated $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates between 2009 and 2014, the U.S. Justice Department has alleged. Some of the money is alleged to have ended up with former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his family.

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In another court filing, Tim Leissner, 48, a former Goldman Sachs partner, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing internal accounting controls.

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