KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia filed criminal charges Friday against 17 current and former directors of three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, piling further pressure on the Wall Street titan over the multibillion dollar 1MDB scandal.
Huge sums were looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad in a globe-spanning fraud, which allegedly involved ex-leader Najib Razak and his inner circle.
Goldman’s role has been under scrutiny as it helped arrange a series of bond issues worth $6.5 billion for the investment vehicle.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad re-opened investigations into the 1MDB affair last year after defeating Najib at the polls, in large part because of public anger at the scandal, and pressure has been steadily mounting on the bank since.
Announcing the latest charges, Attorney General Tommy Thomas said: “Custodial sentences and criminal fines will be sought against the accused … given the severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds.”
Goldman said in a statement it believed the charges were “misdirected” and would be “vigorously defended.”
Thomas listed the names of the 17 accused, whom he said were directors of three Goldman subsidiaries in 2012 and 2013.
In December, Malaysia filed charges against the units — Goldman Sachs International, Goldman Sachs (Asia), and Goldman Sachs (Singapore) — and two ex-employees.
They were accused of giving false statements, which led to $2.7 billion being misappropriated in relation to the bond issues.
Goldman vowed to fight those charges, saying the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to the bank.
Yachts, real estate
Friday’s charges were brought under laws that mandate that directors, chief executives and other corporate representatives in position at the time of an offense are also deemed to have committed that crime, the statement said.
This does not apply in cases where someone can prove that the crime was committed without their consent or that they sought to prevent it from being committed.
Goldman earned about $600 million in fees for helping 1MDB arrange three bond issues in 2012 and 2013.
Malaysia says the payments were far above regular market rates and is seeking compensation of $7.5 billion from the bank in relation to the scandal.
The two former employees charged in Malaysia in December, Tim Leissner and Ng Chong Hwa, were also indicted in the United States.
Leissner has pleaded guilty in America, while Ng was extradited to the U.S. from Malaysia in May and pleaded not guilty.
The alleged mastermind of the scandal, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who was close to Najib, has been charged in Malaysia and the U.S. but remains at large.
US investigating scandal
The Department of Justice, which is investigating the scandal as money was allegedly laundered through the U.S. financial system, believes $4.5 billion was looted from the fund.
It was allegedly spent on luxury goods ranging from a super-yacht to high-end real estate and artworks.
Since his election loss last year, Najib has been hit with dozens of charges over the scandal and went on trial in April. He denies any wrongdoing.