Ex-Goldman bankers and financier face USA charges

Jho Low contacted Mahathir's adviser last week to seek immunity: Report

The DoJ on Thursday charged Low along with two former Goldman Sachs bankers, Ng Chong Hwa and Tim Leissner. It was not clear if Ng had a lawyer. "Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him".

The indictment accuses Leissner and Ng and of using Low's connections to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to "retain business from 1MDB for [Goldman Sachs] through the promise and payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes", including three bond transactions that raised about $6.5 billion for the 1MDB fund between 2012 and 2013.

USA prosecutors had painted Low as a bon vivant and a central figure who set up shell companies and arranged the transfers of tens of millions of dollars to pay Malaysian government officials, while Singapore investigators have called him a "key person of interest".

The money was supposed to support development projects, but prosecutors say the three men "conspired to launder" more than $2.7bn through the USA financial system, and used this money to pay bribes and "for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives".

Charges under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act have also been filed against Jho Low and his father Tan Sri Larry Low at the Sessions Court in Putrajaya last August, relating to the movement of several hundred million USA dollars in the BSI Bank in Singapore.

An estimated $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, the USA justice department alleged. As part of the deal, Leissner will forfeit $43.7 million.

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Mr Low, who was charged earlier in Malaysia, has repeatedly declared his innocence.

Goldman has not yet responded to the indictments.

Low, Ng and Leissner are the first individuals to be charged in the United States in relation to the scandal at 1MDB.

In a speech previous year in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced the scandal as "kleptocracy at its worst". Low, who was also indicted, remains at large. The Malaysian government is seeking restitution from Goldman, according to the country's new Finance Minister. Low, a friend of Najib's stepson Riza Aziz, had no official role at 1MDB but had considerable influence over its dealings and was in frequent contact with Najib, U.S. authorities have said. The corruption scandal involving the fund had already upended Malaysian politics.

Former leader Mahathir Mohammad, outraged over the scandal, came out of retirement and the opposition united behind him in the national elections, leading to Najib's ouster in May. Numerous charges - multiple counts of corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust - are linked to 1MDB.

Najib and Mohamad Irwan Serigar Abdullah, the former treasury secretary-general, pleaded not guilty to misappropriating government funds between December 2016 and December 2017.

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