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USA charges Malaysian financier in money laundering scheme

USA charges Malaysian financier in money laundering scheme

The U.S. Justice Department unsealed a criminal indictment on Thursday against fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low alleging he paid millions of dollars to officials from Malaysia's previous government while embezzling billions from state development fund 1MDB.

Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, and the former bankers were accused by the US Justice Department of conspiring to launder billions of dollars from the fund and bribing officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

In earlier statements, Low said he would not "submit to any jurisdiction" where he could not get a fair trial, especially Malaysia. Low has slammed the handover of the yacht to Malaysia as illegal through statements issued by his US lawyers, but he didn't claim ownership of the vessel in the Malaysian court.

"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", it said. A lawyer for Leissner could not be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear who is representing Ng.

The issue exploded in July 2015 when the Wall Street Journal published documents showing Najib received at least $681 million in payments to his personal bank accounts.

In October 2014, Jho Low and co-conspirators wire transferred $4.1 million (17 million ringgit) to a NY jeweler to pay for gold jewelry for the wife of MO1, US justice officials alleged. He denies any wrongdoing.

Leissner acknowledged paying millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, according to court records.

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Ng and Leissner both held positions with the investment bank Goldman Sachs, according to media reports, and were described in their indictments as working for U.S. Financial Institution #1. Between 2009 and 2014, top executives and associates of Najib looted $4.5 billion from the fund, laundering it through the U.S., Singapore, Switzerland and other countries, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The firm has said it was cooperating with the investigation. He denies any wrongdoing.

It said Mr. Low, who prosecutors say had ties to government officials and acted as an informal advisor to the 1MDB fund, maintains his innocence. Low, Leissner and Ng and two other people, including Mr Vella.

Ng, a managing director at Goldman, and Leissner, who worked as Southeast Asia chairman and managing director at Goldman, sought on three occasions to make Low a formal client, but were rebuffed because officials in the compliance group had "concerns" about the source of the person's wealth and deemed he would not be a "suitable" client.

Nevertheless, Ng and Leissner concealed Low's involvement and pushed deals through the bank's control functions to obtain "very lucrative business for Goldman Sachs, themselves and others", according to the documents.

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.

While the Justice Department has been investigating the 1MDB scandal for some time and has pursued civil lawsuits, these are the first criminal charges the department has brought against individuals related to the 1MDB scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal, which brought worldwide attention to the scandal itself in 2015.