Malaysia files charges against 17 current, former directors of Goldman Sachs units

VIDEO: REUTERS
Goldman Sachs has been under scrutiny for its role in helping raise funds through bond offerings for 1MDB.
Goldman Sachs has been under scrutiny for its role in helping raise funds through bond offerings for 1MDB.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia filed criminal charges against 17 current and former directors at subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs Group over the multi-billion dollar corruption probe at state fund 1MDB, the attorney-general said on Friday (Aug 9).

Goldman Sachs has been under scrutiny for its role in helping raise funds through bond offerings for 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which is the subject of corruption and money laundering investigations in at least six countries.

Friday’s charges were brought under a section of the Malaysian Capital Markets and Services Act that holds certain senior executives responsible for any offences that may have been committed, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said.

"Custodial sentences and criminal fines will be sought against the accused ... given the severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds," Thomas said in a statement on Friday.

Thomas said individuals who have been charged include Richard Gnodde, CEO of Goldman Sachs International, and Michael Sherwood, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc and co-chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs international.

Goldman Sachs said the charges were misdirected.

"We believe the charges announced today, along with those against three Goldman Sachs entities announced in December last year, are misdirected and will be vigorously defended," a Goldman Sachs spokesman in Hong Kong told Reuters.

The bank has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to Goldman Sachs, outside counsel and others about the use of transaction proceeds.

Last year, Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs and two of the US bank’s former employees in connection with 1MDB.

The US Department of Justice is investigating the bank for its role as underwriter and arranger of the bond offer.

An estimated US$4.5 billion (S$6.22 billion) was misappropriated from 1MDB by fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014, the US Justice Department has said.

Tim Leissner, a former partner of Goldman Sachs in Asia, pleaded guilty last August to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and agreed to forfeit US$43.7 million.

Malaysia has said it was seeking up to US$7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman over its dealings with 1MDB, set up in 2009 by then prime minister Najib Razak.

Najib, ousted in an election last year, is facing dozens of criminal charges related to 1MDB. He has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.