US indicts 1MDB’s Low, ex-Goldman banker; Tim Leissner pleads

Signage for 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB) is displayed at the site of the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday, July 17, 2015. Photographer: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg

U.S. authorities indicted Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and former Goldman Sachs banker Ng Chong Hwa on charges of conspiracy to launder billions of dollars in illegal proceeds from Malaysia’s 1MDB wealth fund, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.

Tim Leissner, a former top Goldman banker in Asia who led Goldman Sachs’s bond offerings for the fund, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and to violating foreign bribery laws, prosecutors said.

Low, known as Jho Low, remains at large, prosecutors said in a statement. Ng, known as Roger Ng, was arrested earlier Thursday in Malaysia, pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued at the request of the U.S., they said.

Leissner and his then-deputy Ng helped arrange bond offerings that raised more than $6 billion for the investment fund, known formally as 1Malaysia Development Bhd, in deals that were lucrative for the bank.

Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, didn’t have an immediate comment. The charges were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. alleges that a small coterie of Malaysians led by Low diverted money from 1MDB into personal accounts disguised to look like legitimate businesses, and kicked back some of those funds to officials. Some of the money is alleged to have ended up with former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his family.