KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 ― Fugitive financier Low Taek Jho today maintained his innocence after being hit with multiple counts of bribery and conspiring to embezzle and launder billions of dollars of funds from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in a U.S. federal court yesterday.
Also unsealed yesterday in federal court in the Eastern District of NY was the guilty plea of Tim Leissner, the former South-east Asia Chairman and participating managing director of the Financial Institution, to a two-count criminal information charging Leissner with conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the FCPA by both paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing the internal accounting controls of the Financial Institution while he was employed by it.
While US prosecutors have previously filed civil asset forfeiture suits for assets allegedly bought with some of the stolen funds, these are the first criminal charges the Justice Department has brought against individuals in the case under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law targeting official bribery overseas.
The criminal charges are the first to be brought by USA authorities over the vast, long-running scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
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.
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. However, between then and 2014, about $4.5 billion was allegedly embezzled from the fund. Another bank official, Ng Chong Hwa, 51, also known as Roger Ng, was arrested earlier on Thursday in Malaysia, prosecutors said.
Trump escalates threats against migrant caravan
The trip could be twice as long if the migrants head for the Tijuana-San Diego frontier, as another caravan did earlier this year. He said the caravans was "different" than those seen by the United States in the past, adding that they were better organized.
The funds were intended "for the benefit of the Malaysian people" but more than US$2.7 billion went to kickbacks and bribes, according to the charges.
United States authorities have previously filed civil suits aimed at recovering luxury goods, cash and other items allegedly purchased with money from the fund.
Some of those allegations were described in civil forfeiture complaints filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles a year ago. 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. It relied primarily on debt to fund investment and economic development projects and was overseen by senior Malaysian government officials, according to court records.
Ng was also indicted for conspiring to violate the internal controls at Goldman Sachs, which underwrote about US$6.5 billion in bonds issued by 1MDB, the United States government said.
Since the election, Malaysian authorities have brought 38 charges against Najib. When the banks questioned large money transfers, the conspirators used fake business documents to address their concerns, the department says. The firm has said it was co-operating with the investigation. It has seized 240 million Singapore dollars ($180 million) of property and cash and says about half of that belonged to Low and his immediate family. A representative for Mr.
Mr. Leissner, who worked closely with the Malaysian fund, had been in plea talks with federal prosecutor for some time. It was not immediately clear who is representing Ng.