Malaysian wanted by U.S. in 1MDB scandal says he's innocent

Aaron Brown
November 4, 2018

The Justice Department on Thursday charged Low in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from the 1MDB investment fund. Prosecutors announced a three-count indictment of Low in the first charges arising from the scandal over the epic corruption scandal at the state investment fund known as 1MDB. Low remains at large.

These indictments are a blow to Goldman Sachs, which is trying to improve its image, tarnished by his controversial role in the financial crisis, opening up to the general public via Marcus, a online platform for loans and deposits.

These are the first USA criminal charges in the case which spawned investigations around the world. Najib was ousted in an election upset in May after former leader Mahathir Mohamad, outraged by the scandal, came out of political retirement. He denies any wrongdoing.

In addition, former banker Tim Leissner pleaded guilty to two charges related to money laundering involving the state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was established by former Prime Minister Najib Razak and is central to the investigation.

Low, in a statement through his spokesman, maintained his innocence.

"Mr. Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him".

Police in Malaysia said in July that Low had fled Macau to an unknown destination.

Low has chafed over criticism of his partying and playboy lifestyle and vehemently objected to the recently published book "Billion Dollar Whale", which says it tells the inside story of Low and 1MDB. While at Goldman (ticker: GS), Leissner was a powerful and senior figure: He was a partner at the bank and chairman of its Southeast Asia business.

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The documents refer to a third unnamed Goldman official who is an Italian national.

The unidentified co-conspirator is Andrea Vella, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

In its civil suits, the department said that more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by high-level officials at the fund and their associates between 2009 and 2015.

Following the close of Project Maximus, $790 million (3.3 billion ringgit) was transferred to accounts controlled by Low, Leissner and others, including Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials.

Some of the funds went to finance the movie, "The Wolf of Wall Street", a 2013 Oscar-nominated film about Jordan Belfort, a corrupt stockbroker who was sent to prison for fraud, the government said.

He is also alleged to have violated the anti-bribery laws the paying or promising bribes to officials in malaysia and Abu Dhabi so that they can retain Goldman Sachs as bank counsel in transactions "profit". Low as a client, after compliance officials raised concerns about the source of his money.

As the bond offerings proceeded, the two men concealed Low's involvement from Goldman Sachs officials. Low is in the nature, while Tim Leissner has pleaded guilty in August in NY and was released in exchange for a deposit of $ 20 million.

A portion of the misappropriated funds had been placed in the purchase of luxury residences in NY, in the acquisition of works of art at auctions organized by "a home based in NY", and in the financing of hollywood films, including "The Wolf of Wall Street". A lawyer for Leissner was unavailable for comment when NPR phoned.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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