US examining Goldman Sachs' 1MDB adviser role: WSJ

A Goldman Sachs sign is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in the Manhattan borough of New York, in this Jan 24, 2014.
A Goldman Sachs sign is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in the Manhattan borough of New York, in this Jan 24, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • The United States authorities are looking into Goldman Sachs Group's role as an adviser to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as part of a broad probe into allegations of corruption and money laundering, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported yesterday.

The debt-laden state investor has Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as head of its advisory board.

Inquiries by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Department of Justice are at the information-gathering stage and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Goldman Sachs, WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Investigators "have yet to determine if the matter will become a focus of any investigations into the 1MDB scandal," the paper quoted a spokesman for the FBI as saying.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman in Hong Kong declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

The FBI and the Justice Department were not available for comment outside US business hours, the wire agency said.

Previous media reports pointed out that 1MDB in 2009 issued RM5 billion (S$1.7 billion) in 30-year Islamic bonds that were managed by Goldman. It is not clear if the FBI and Justice Department are gathering information on this deal.

In July, Malaysian anti-corruption officials investigating allegations linked to 1MDB visited the local office of Goldman Sachs seeking documents relating to the state investor, sources have told Reuters.

1MDB has been dogged by controversy for more than a year over its accumulation of debts amounting to RM42 billion and is the subject of multiple investigations.

A WSJ report in July said investigators looking into 1MDB had found that nearly US$700 million (S$980 million) was deposited into a bank account under Datuk Seri Najib's name. He has denied taking money for personal gain.

News and political rhetoric linked to 1MDB heated up again this week. Two men were charged with financial sabotage in court for travelling abroad to bring the attention of the 1MDB financial scandal to the authorities in the US, France, Switzerland and Hong Kong. Additionally, Malaysia's central bank chief and attorney-general are at odds on whether the state investor had breached any Malaysian law in transferring money overseas.

Politician Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang were held under a tough security law and then charged on Monday with attempting to sabotage the Malaysian economy as well as the financial and banking system.

Meanwhile, Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said on Tuesday that he was right to close an investigation by Bank Negara Malaysia as there was no evidence that the fund's officials had knowingly flouted the law.

The central bank had last week urged the attorney-general to prosecute 1MDB, saying it secured permits to remit US$1.83 billion overseas based on inaccurate or incomplete disclosure of information, breaching domestic regulations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'US examining Goldman Sachs' 1MDB adviser role: WSJ'. Print Edition | Subscribe