US DoJ lawyer clears ethics hurdle to drive 1MDB-Goldman probe

Goldman Sachs is at the centre of the global corruption scandal surrounding Malaysian state investor 1MDB. — Reuters pic
Goldman Sachs is at the centre of the global corruption scandal surrounding Malaysian state investor 1MDB. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — The US Justice Department’s Brian Benczkowski has secured an ethics waiver permitting him to direct investigations into Goldman Sachs over its role in the 1MDB global corruption scandal.

According to the Financial Times, the department’s head of its prison division was recently recruited from the Kirkland & Ellis law firm that became involved with the US investment bank’s defence team.

The US administration previously introduced an ethics pledge for government appointees not to participate in matters linked to their previous employers for a period of two years.

The exemption will allow Benczkowski to take a more active role in deciding punitive actions against Goldman Sachs that is accused of defrauding Malaysia of billions via two 1MDB bond issues.

Goldman Sachs has engaged Benczkowski’s former Kirkland & Ellis colleague, Mark Filip who is also a former deputy attorney-general, as part of its legal defence team.

Goldman Sachs is at the centre of the global corruption scandal surrounding Malaysian state investor 1MDB.

The DoJ has already secured convictions against former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner on charges conspiracy of money laundering and conspiracy stemming from the bank’s bond issuance on behalf of 1MDB.

The DoJ is also awaiting the extradition of another former Goldman Sachs banker, Malaysian Roger Ng, to stand trial in the US on related charges.

Goldman Sachs is accused of aiding fugitive financier Low Taek Jho in defrauding 1MDB during the issuance of over US$6 billion (RM24.7 billion) in bonds.

The Malaysian government is seeking to at least recover the “above average” fees the US bank charged for the bond issues in addition to other losses.