KL looking into more deals by ex-Goldman banker: Anwar

At the forum yesterday, Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim said it would be "inexcusable" if Goldman Sachs were complicit in the scandal surrounding state investment firm 1MDB.
At the forum yesterday, Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim said it would be "inexcusable" if Goldman Sachs were complicit in the scandal surrounding state investment firm 1MDB. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Malaysia's leader-in-waiting said the government is looking into more Goldman Sachs deals carried out by Tim Leissner, the former partner whose work on 1Malaysia Development Berhad's (1MDB) fund-raising dragged the Wall Street firm into one of Asia's biggest corruption scandals.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, speaking in an interview at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, did not identify any specific transactions.

He also said it would be "inexcusable" if Goldman were complicit in the scandal surrounding the state investment company, levying among the harshest and most direct criticism of the US bank so far by a Malaysian politician.

"We are looking at other earlier involvements, other deals in the country, whether they're transparent," Mr Anwar said. "Although the focus is on 1MDB", he said, investigators in Malaysia and the US are probing earlier deals in Malaysia in which Leissner was involved.

Goldman has been under scrutiny for years for its role in raising US$6.5 billion (S$8.9 billion) for 1MDB and for the nearly US$600 million in fees and commissions it earned from the bonds.

1MDB is at the centre of a global scandal involving claims of embezzlement and money laundering, which have triggered investigations in the United States, Singapore, Switzerland and beyond.

There are ongoing discussions about recovering money from financial institutions, including Goldman, said Mr Anwar, 71, who is expected to replace 93-year-old Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister in a year or two.

"They must understand that to be complicit in the excesses and crime is inexcusable and, in the process, the country and the people suffer," Mr Anwar said, when asked whether he plans to meet Goldman executives attending the forum.

"We must get hold of every cent that has been taken out of the country by either the leaders or those complicit in this action."

Goldman arranged two separate US$1.75 billion bond placements for 1MDB in 2012, and a US$3 billion debt sale in 2013. It has for years said it believed the money it was raising for 1MDB would be used for development projects, and that fees and commissions "reflected the underwriting risks" it had assumed. The authorities have said cash instead went into yachts, luxury real estate and private bank accounts.

"We need to go to due process, but if they are prepared to negotiate, they have to return" about US$600 million of the fees and commissions, Mr Anwar said, adding that he has no plans to meet Goldman executives in Singapore, as investigations are ongoing.

In the first charges against individuals by US prosecutors made public last week, at least three senior Goldman executives, including Leissner, were implicated. Leissner, once Goldman's South-east Asia chairman, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and confessed that he bribed officials to get bond deals for Goldman.

Court documents said an unidentified Goldman official in Asia conspired with Leissner, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and another then Goldman banker Ng Chong Hwa, and had knowledge that bribes were being paid.

BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2018, with the headline KL looking into more deals by ex-Goldman banker: Anwar. Subscribe