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Singapore bans former Goldman Sachs exec with 1MDB links

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singapore regulators placed a lifetime ban Wednesday on a former Goldman Sachs banker who faces criminal charges in the United States and Malaysia for ransacking the 1MDB state investment fund.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, or MAS, said it decided to lengthen its 10-year ban against Tim Leissner after he pleaded guilty to charges levied by the Justice Department in November. Leissner admitted to money laundering conspiracy and conspiring to violate foreign bribery laws in connection with 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

“The U.S. DOJ’s charges and Mr. Leissner’s guilty plea have provided further evidence of Mr. Leissner’s involvement in fund flows related to 1MDB, which were previously not available to MAS,” the authority said.

“The latest actions against Mr. Leissner arose from the close cooperation and continuing investigations by law enforcement and regulatory authorities in the U.S., Singapore and other countries,” it added.

The ban covers banking and business functions and the managing of capital markets services firms. It also prevents Leissner from being a director, substantial shareholder, capital markets services licensee or exempt person for Singapore businesses dealing with securities, futures and funds management.

Leissner, who led Goldman Sachs’ Singapore branch, managed three 1MDB bond issuances from 2012 to 2013. MAS said he issued an unauthorized reference letter to a financial institution in Luxembourg, and falsely claimed the bank had conducted due diligence on fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

Low, the named mastermind of a scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from the state-owned fund, remains at large. He allegedly used the money for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry and to help finance Hollywood movies including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

U.S. and Malaysian authorities have charged Low in absentia, Leissner and another former Goldman Sachs executive, Roger Ng Chong Hwa.

Singapore, which commenced 1MDB investigations in 2015, has shuttered two Swiss banks and fined others, including DBS Bank, UBS and Standard Chartered Bank for 1MDB-related lapses.

It has jailed, fined and imposed bans on several executives. In October, a Singapore court ordered the return of 15.3 million Singapore dollars ($11.1 million) linked to the indebted fund.

“I think that the fines so far from Singapore have been relatively minimal, focused on a few facilitators rather than instigators, and have yet to go to the real serious issues of money laundering and kleptocracy,” said Bridget Welsh, an associate political science professor at the John Cabot University in Rome.

“We will only get a better sense of the facets of 1MDB when the trials start. Exposure of the problem opens Singapore to greater scrutiny,” she said.

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