Malaysia filed criminal charges against 17 current and former Goldman Sachs employees on Friday, including the bank’s top international executive. It’s the latest fallout from the 1MDB scandal.
Malaysia’s attorney general said the accused were directors of three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries during the time that the bank arranged three large bond offerings for 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
The bank called the charges “misdirected” and said they will be “vigorously defended.” Among those charged Friday is Richard Gnodde, the CEO of Goldman Sachs International.
The US Justice Department has claimed that $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by senior officials and pumped into New York condos, hotels, yachts and a jet, and used to fund movies such as “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Malaysia has accused Goldman Sachs and some of its bankers of misleading investors about the bond sales and fraudulently diverting $2.7 billion of the proceeds.
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak was also hit with dozens of corruption-related charges in the case. His trial is ongoing, and he has pleaded not guilty.
Goldman Sachs (GS) and some of its employees have been central figures in the case. The US investment bank earned about $600 million in fees from the bond sales, which raised a total of $6.5 billion, according to court documents.
But more than $2.7 billion of the proceeds from those offerings was stolen from 1MDB, and fraudulently diverted, according to Malaysia’s Attorney General.
That raises questions about who at the firm knew about the questionable integrity of the deals, and when they knew it.
The bank has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and claimed that it was misled by rogue employees who intentionally deceived its legal and compliance teams.
Malaysia last year charged Goldman Sachs and four individuals, two of them former Goldman employees, with what authorities called “grave violations” of Malaysia’s securities laws.
Federal prosecutors in the United States have also charged two former Goldman Sachs bankers — Roger Ng and former Southeast Asia chairman Tim Leissner — in connection with the case. Leissner pleaded guilty. Ng was extradited to the US and has pleaded not guilty. The case is still pending.
The Malaysian Attorney General’s office said Friday that the newly charged people “occupied the highest executive positions in those 3 Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, and exercised or ought to have exercised decision-making authority over the transactions of those bodies corporate.”
In a statement Friday, the bank said that “we believe the charges announced today, along with those against three Goldman Sachs entities announced in December last year, are misdirected and will be vigorously defended.”
The charges carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison, along with a fine.