Former Goldman Sachs banker in 1MDB plea talks with US: WSJ

PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE - A former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker is in talks with US prosecutors to potentially plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from an alleged scheme to steal billions of dollars from a Malaysian state investment fund, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter said.

The report said the talks bring the fast-moving investigation closer to Goldman, which raised billions of dollars for 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

It also comes after Malaysia's former prime minister, Najib Razak, who founded the fund and lost his re-election bid earlier this year, was charged with abuse of power and criminal breach of trust in relation to SRC International, a former 1MDB unit.

Najib pleaded not guilty to those charges and has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB.

Former Malaysia PM Najib charged with corruption

  • Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to face several charges for committing offences under two Acts, sources said.
  • "We believe Najib will be charged under the Anti Money-Laundering Act and the Penal Code," a source told The Star yesterday.
  • Other sources said Najib is expected to face four counts of committing criminal breach of trust and anti-money laundering charges involving a total of RM42mil and believed to be linked to the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
  • Yesterday, Najib was arrested at his house in Jalan Lang­gak Duta in Kuala Lumpur at about 3pm and was whisked to the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya about an hour later.
  • Supporters of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak hold up signs, ahead of his arrival to court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • Rosmah Mansor, wife of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak, leaves a courtroom in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Family members of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak leave a court in Kuala Lumpur
  • Malaysia's Attorney-General Tommy Thomas speaks during a news conference outside a courtroom in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • A supporter of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak conflicts with a police officer outside a court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Tim Leissner, a one-time Goldman partner and Southeast Asia chairman hasn't been charged. He is seeking an agreement with prosecutors that would involve his co-operation with the government's criminal fraud probe into 1MDB and Goldman, the report said.

A spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice (DoJ) declined to comment. A lawyer for Leissner also declined to comment.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman told Reuters: "Since we suspended Mr. Leissner, we have discovered certain activities he undertook that were deliberately hidden from the firm, which we have brought to the attention of the relevant authorities who continue to receive our full co-operation."

Last month, citing sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that Malaysia is considering asking the DoJ to get Goldman Sachs to return nearly $600 million in fees it earned from bonds raised for 1MDB.

Goldman raised nearly $6.5 billion in three bond sales between 2012 and 2013 for 1MDB. More than $2.5 billion raised from these bonds was misappropriated by high-level 1MDB officials, their relatives and associates, according to DoJ civil lawsuits filed in a US court in 2016.

Also read: Najib charged with receiving RM42 million bribe from pension fund KWAP

Goldman earned almost $600 million for the three deals - an amount critics say is far in excess of the normal 1-2 per cent fees a bank could expect for helping sell bonds.

Goldman has maintained that the outsized fees related to the additional risks it took on - it bought the un-rated bonds while it sought investors and, in the case of the 2013 deal which raised $2.7 billion, 1MDB wanted the funds in a hurry for a planned investment.

The WSJ said one potential charge Leissner could ultimately plead guilty to would be a violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans the use of bribes to foreign officials to get or keep business.

The report said prosecutors from the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn are also investigating whether Goldman violated any laws.