A three-count criminal indictment was unsealed today in US federal court charging Jho Low and Roger Ng with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). — Picture via Facebook
NEW YORK, Nov 1 — A three-count criminal indictment was unsealed today in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging Low Taek Jho, also known as “Jho Low,” and Ng Chong Hwa, also known as “Roger Ng,” with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund, and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials. As part of the three-count indictment, Ng is also charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA by circumventing the internal accounting controls of a major New York-headquartered financial institution (Financial Institution), which underwrote more than US$6 billion (RM25 billion) in bonds issued by 1MDB in three separate bond offerings in 2012 and 2013, while Ng was employed at the Financial Institution as a managing director. Ng was arrested earlier today in Malaysia, pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued at the request of the United States. Low remains at large.
Also unsealed today in federal court in the Eastern District of New York was the guilty plea of Tim Leissner, the former South-east Asia Chairman and participating managing director of the Financial Institution, to a two-count criminal information charging Leissner with conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the FCPA by both paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing the internal accounting controls of the Financial Institution while he was employed by it. According to court filings, Leissner has been ordered to forfeit US$43,700,000 as a result of his crimes.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John P. Cronan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, William F. Sweeney, Jr, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and R. Damon Rowe, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Los Angeles Field Office, announced the charges.
The criminal scheme
1MDB is a Malaysian state-owned and controlled fund created to pursue investment and development projects for the economic benefit of Malaysia and its people. As alleged in court filings, between approximately 2009 and 2014, as 1MDB raised money to fund its projects, billions of dollars were misappropriated and fraudulently diverted from 1MDB, including funds 1MDB raised in 2012 and 2013 through three bond transactions that it executed with the Financial Institution. As part of the scheme, and as alleged in court filings, Low, Ng, Leissner and others conspired to bribe government officials in Malaysia, including at 1MDB, and Abu Dhabi to obtain and retain lucrative business for the Financial Institution, including the 2012 and 2013 bond deals. They also allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of their criminal conduct through the US financial system by purchasing, among other things, luxury residential real estate in New York City and elsewhere, and artwork from a New York-based auction house, and by funding major Hollywood films.
As alleged, Low’s close relationships with high-ranking government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi were central to the scheme. Ng, Leissner, and others at the Financial Institution allegedly knew Low was close to these government officials, including a high-ranking Malaysian government official who had authority to approve 1MDB business decisions (Malaysian Official #1). According to allegations in court filings, beginning in approximately 2009 and continuing through 2014, Low, Ng, Leissner and the other co-conspirators used Low’s relationships to obtain and retain business for the Financial Institution through the promise and payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes, including to ensure 1MDB awarded the Financial Institution a role on three bond transactions known internally at the Financial Institution as “Project Magnolia,” “Project Maximus” and “Project Catalyze.” As a result of its work for 1MDB during that time, the Financial Institution allegedly received approximately US$600 million in fees and revenues along with increased reputational prestige. At the same time, Ng, Leissner and others allegedly received large bonuses and enhanced their own reputations at the Financial Institution. In total, according to allegations in court filings, more than US$2.7 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and Low, Ng, Leissner and others conspired to launder this money through the US financial system to pay bribes to foreign officials and for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives.