News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 2, 2018: A Malaysian financier who is believed to also be the holder of a St. Kitts and Nevis Passport according to Malay authorities, was on Thursday indicted in New York City.
A three-count criminal indictment was unsealed Thursday in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging Low Taek Jho, also known as “Jho Low” with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund.
He was also charged with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials.
Also charged was Ng Chong Hwa, also known as “Roger Ng.”
As part of the three-count indictment, Ng is also charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA by circumventing the internal accounting controls of Goldman Sachs, which underwrote more than $6 billion in bonds issued by 1MDB in three separate bond offerings in 2012 and 2013, while Ng was employed at the Financial Institution as a managing director in Malaysia.
Ng was arrested on Thursday in Malaysia, pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued at the request of the United States. Low remains at large.
Also unsealed Thursday was the guilty plea of Tim Leissner, the former Southeast Asia Chairman and participating managing director of Goldman. He was charged with a two-count criminal information and conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the FCPA by both paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing the internal accounting controls of the Financial Institution while he was employed by it. According to court filings, Leissner has been ordered to forfeit $43,700,000 as a result of his crimes.
1MDB is a Malaysian state-owned and controlled fund created to pursue investment and development projects for the economic benefit of Malaysia and its people. As alleged in court filings, between approximately 2009 and 2014, as 1MDB raised money to fund its projects, billions of dollars were misappropriated and fraudulently diverted from 1MDB, including funds 1MDB raised in 2012 and 2013 through three bond transactions that it executed with the Financial Institution.
As part of the scheme, and as alleged in court filings, Low, Ng, Leissner and others conspired to bribe government officials in Malaysia, including at 1MDB, and Abu Dhabi to obtain and retain lucrative business for the Financial Institution, including the 2012 and 2013 bond deals. They also allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of their criminal conduct through the U.S. financial system by purchasing, among other things, luxury residential real estate in New York City and elsewhere, and artwork from a New York-based auction house, and by funding major Hollywood films.
As alleged, Low’s close relationships with high-ranking government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi were central to the scheme. Ng, Leissner, and others at the Financial Institution allegedly knew Low was close to these government officials, including a high-ranking Malaysian government official who had authority to approve 1MDB business decisions.
According to allegations in court filings, beginning in approximately 2009 and continuing through 2014, Low, Ng, Leissner and the other co-conspirators used Low’s relationships to obtain and retain business for the Financial Institution through the promise and payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes, including to ensure 1MDB awarded the Financial Institution a role on three bond transactions known internally at the Financial Institution as “Project Magnolia,” “Project Maximus” and “Project Catalyze.” As a result of its work for 1MDB during that time, the Financial Institution allegedly received approximately $600 million in fees and revenues along with increased reputational prestige.
At the same time, Ng, Leissner and others allegedly received large bonuses and enhanced their own reputations at the Financial Institution. In total, according to allegations in court filings, more than $2.7 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and Low, Ng, Leissner and others conspired to launder this money through the U.S. financial system to pay bribes to foreign officials and for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives.
In July, Immigration Director-General of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, said Jho Low, is believed to be using the same name on a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport.