NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG): The star witness in the bribery trial of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng described the lengths to which they and a tight circle of Goldman partners went to loot billions of dollars from Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB.
To obscure the role of the high-flying financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low (pic), now a fugitive, in their fund-raising efforts for 1MDB, they came up with code names for Low including "friend" and "PMO" (for the Malaysian prime minister’s office), Tim Leissner told the jury on Tuesday (Feb 22).
Leissner, the former chairman of Goldman’s South-East Asia business, testified that he and his subordinate Ng - along with senior Goldman officials including Andrea Vella, a former co-head of investment banking in Asia - used the code names to conceal the extent of Low’s involvement in the fund-raising projects from other partners at the bank.
"Had we raised his name in his true capacity, we would not have been approved by Goldman oversight officials," Leissner, 52, said in his second day of testimony about the scheme in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
"It was a red flag that would have stopped the transaction.”
But they were threading a needle, Leissner suggested. He told the jurors how the same group decided to acknowledge some level of involvement by Low, because he was already publicly associated with 1MDB.
When asked by oversight personnel, Leissner said they agreed to say Low was connected to 1MDB’s predecessor fund and that he had ties to Abu Dhabi, where government entities had agreed to provide support for 1MDB.
"We had decided that that would be safe,” he said.
Leissner has pleaded guilty to money laundering and bribery of foreign officials.
Ng, former head of investment banking in Malaysia, is charged with conspiring with him to launder money and violate U.S. anti-bribery laws. He is the only former Goldman banker to go on trial in the scandal.
The case is U.S. v Low Taek Jho, 18-cr-538, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).