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Ex-Goldman banker: ‘Bribes’ made 1MDB business possible

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A former Goldman Sachs banker is on trial for his role in a multi billion dollar corruption scandal in Malaysia.

Former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner, once hailed for bringing the bank lucrative Malaysian business, has told a court that “bribes and kickbacks” made the deals possible.

Mr Leissner was testifying in the trial of his former colleague, Roger Ng.

Prosecutors say the two men helped divert billions from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund to be used in bribes for politicians and others.

Mr Ng, who is on trial over the matter, has denied wrongdoing.

Mr Leissner, the former boss of Goldman’s Southeast Asia unit, told a New York courtroom on Wednesday that Mr Ng was a key banker for the 1MDB transactions, in which Goldman helped raise $6.5bn for the fund through a series of bond deals.

He said he and Mr Ng, Goldman’s former head of investment banking in Malaysia, were hailed as “heroes” within the bank for winning the business, which brought Goldman roughly $600m in fees.

But US prosecutors say $4.5bn worth of the money was siphoned off as bribes for Malaysian politicians and others, who spent their gains on art, jewellery and property.

“The bribes and kickbacks made the transactions possible,” Mr Leissner told a New York court on Wednesday.

In 2020, Goldman admitted that its Malaysia unit had paid bribes and agreed to pay fines in the US, Malaysia and elsewhere.

Defence lawyer Marc Agnifilo has said his client is a “fall guy” and sought to raise doubts about the credibility of Mr Leissner, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and violate anti-bribery laws in 2018.

Mr Leissner is cooperating with prosecutors ahead of his sentencing.

“My greed and ambition took over,” Leissner said in the court, adding that the fallout from his actions had destroyed his life.

Prosecutors say Mr Ng, who worked for Goldman from 2005 to May 2014, received $35m in kickbacks for his role in the scheme.

They say he introduced Mr Leissner to Chinese-Malaysian financier Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of the scheme and a confidant of former president Najib Razak.

They say the two men hid Mr Low’s role from Goldman officials after bank officials had objected to doing business with him.

In 2020, Goldman Sachs reached a $3.9bn settlement with the Malaysian government for its role in the multi-billion-dollar corruption scheme.

It also paid nearly $3bn to authorities in four countries to end an investigation into work it performed for 1MDB.

The same year, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in jail after he was found guilty of abusing his power, laundering money and breaching the public’s trust.

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