Leissner blames Goldman ‘culture’ for role in 1MDB fraud

Tim Leissner with his wife, former supermodel Kimora Lee Simmons. — AFP file pic
Tim Leissner with his wife, former supermodel Kimora Lee Simmons. — AFP file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 — US investment banking goliath Goldman Sachs encourages executives to mask legally questionable tactics in the pursuit of key accounts, said convicted former banker Tim Leissner.

In comments from his guilty plea to the charge of conspiring to steal 1MDB funds, Leissner asserted that such practices were customary at the bank.

According to a report by CNN Business today, Goldman’s former South-east Asia chief confessed to hiding his knowledge that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho used bribery to secure the account from the bank’s legal advisors.

Leissner’s guilty plea was unsealed in the US yesterday and, in it, he said such practices were “very much in line of its culture of Goldman Sachs to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees.”

Goldman is coming under heavy scrutiny after Leissner and another former banker, Roger Ng, were indicted on criminal charges in the US.

Details from the US Justice Department’s investigation suggest that the bank was complicit in Low’s efforts to defraud the Malaysian investment firm.

Such suspicions were reinforced yesterday when Bloomberg reported that Goldman chairman Lloyd Blankfein had personally attended negotiations involving Leissner and Low.

According to US prosecutors, the investment bank generated an “above average” US$600 million in fees for its work with 1MDB, which included three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised US$6.5 billion. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit US$43.7 million (RM181.9 million).

Ng was arrested here and is fighting his extradition to the US, but has agreed to surrender US$29 million believed linked to 1MDB.

In Malaysia, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is facing 38 charges related to 1MDB and a former subsidiary. Low remains at large.

The corruption scandal spanning over 10 countries remains under active investigation here and in at least six other foreign jurisdictions.

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