A Goldman Sachs banker, who made almost $700m (£515m) through his involvement in the 1MDB scandal, has said “greed and ambition” motivated him to embezzle billions from the Malaysian government, while testifying against Roger Ng, his former Goldman Sachs colleague.
Speaking at a Brooklyn Court, Tim Leissner, the former head of Goldman’s Southeast Asia division, said Ng had introduced him to international fugitive Jho Low – the Chinese-Malaysian businessman accused of masterminding the 1MDB scandal – in 2008.
In testifying against his former colleague, Leissner said Low first laid out plans to bribe officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi – including former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak – and embezzle billions from the Malaysian government, during a meeting at Low’s London flat in 2012.
Following the meeting, the Goldman Sachs bankers helped the 1MDB fund raise $6.5bn through three fraudulent bonds deals, which saw the bankers reap $600m in commission.
Leissner said the deals had “instantaneously” made him and Ng “heroes” in the Goldman Sachs offices, as he told the court his “greed and ambition took over.”
“The main focus for me was whatever it takes to get these transactions done for Goldman Sachs,” Leissner said, as he turned focus towards the investment bank’s internal culture.
Leissner said he and Ng hid their dealings with Low from their other Goldman Sachs colleagues, as the investment bank had previously rejected plans to work with the Malaysian businessman as a private wealth client, due to Low’s extravagant lifestyle.
Leisner told the court that he “did not really care” about Low’s lavish lifestyle, as the Brooklyn Court heard Ng and Leissner had appeared on guest lists for Low’s extravagant parties, including events attended by celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Leissner, who admitted bribery and money laundering charges in 2018 but has not yet been sentenced, is expected to receive a lighter punishment due to his cooperation with investigators.
Ng, who faces up to 30 years imprisonment, denies any involvement in the money laundering scheme.
In his opening statements, Ng’s defence lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, attacked Leissner’s credibility, in calling him a “double bigamist,” after claiming the banker had been “married to two separate women at the same time, twice.”
Leissner allegedly married former Goldman Sachs analyst Judy Chan whilst still married to his first wife, before he married American model Kimora Lee Simmons in 2013.
Low is currently evading justice, having been indicted by a US court, alongside Ng, in 2018. It is believed that Low travels extensively throughout China.
In 2020, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay a $2.9bn settlement over its role in the 1MDB scandal, following an investigation led by the US Department of Justice.