Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Washington  — Former Goldman Sachs Group bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng were banned from the industry by the US Federal Reserve for their role in helping divert billions of dollars from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB.

Leissner and Ng co-ordinated bond offerings that allowed funds to be stolen from 1MDB, the Fed said in a Tuesday statement. Some of the money was used to bribe government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, and criminals also used proceeds to pay for lavish lifestyles, according to regulator.

Leissner, who agreed to the Fed’s permanent ban, was fined $1.42m, according to the statement. He has already pleaded guilty to charges brought by the US justice department, including conspiring to launder money.

Ng, Leissner’s deputy at Goldman Sachs, was indicted on similar charges in October. In February, Malaysia said it would extradite Ng to the US after he had completed legal proceedings in local courts. 

A lawyer for Leissner declined to comment, while an attorney who has represented Ng did not  immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Given the department of justice’s charges, this development is hardly surprising,” said Goldman Sachs spokesman Michael DuVally.

Goldman Controls

The Fed has ramped up an investigation into how Goldman Sachs bankers dodged the firm’s internal controls to raise billions for 1MDB that later went missing, Bloomberg News reported in November, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Fed accused Leissner of participating in a scheme with Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho and others to divert money from “several” 1MDB transactions, including three bond offerings underwritten by Goldman Sachs in 2012 and 2013, according to an order dated March 11. Low, a controversial financier, has been accused of misappropriating  hundreds of millions of dollars from the Malaysian fund and using some of it to buy gifts for famous models and film actors.

Leissner in August pleaded guilty to US charges that he conspired to launder money and violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As part of the charges, he agreed to forfeit $43.7m and admitted to bribing officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates to get bond deals for Goldman Sachs.

Cultural Problems?

Leissner said he and others arranged the 1MDB fundraising as debt offerings because it would generate higher fees for the bank. He has said his behaviour was in line with the “culture of Goldman Sachs to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees”.

Leissner’s guilty plea, unsealed in November, did not say whether he was cooperating with prosecutors. The judge in the case has said that he faces decades in prison under federal guidelines, though defendants are often granted leniency for providing useful information to authorities.

Bloomberg