Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman Richard J. Gnodde and John Michael Evans, a former partner at the U.S. bank who’s now president of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., were among those charged. They were directors of three Goldman Sachs units that Malaysia has accused of misleading investors when arranging $6.5 billion in bond sales for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013.
The directors knew the funds would be misappropriated, Malaysian officials allege. The country announced charges against the entities in December, though prosecutors have struggled to serve to the respective Goldman Sachs units. Malaysia will seek custodial sentences and criminal fines against the individuals, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said in a statement Friday.
“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,” a Goldman Sachs spokesman said by email.
Law enforcement agencies from the U.S. to Singapore are investigating the money trail of billions of dollars that were allegedly siphoned in the 1MDB case. Goldman Sachs, which received some $600 million in fees for the bond sales, has been under close scrutiny. U.S. prosecutors have charged two former bankers at the firm.
The penalties announced today reflect “the severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds, the lengthy period over which the offenses were planned and executed,” as well as the breadth of Goldman Sachs units and officers involved in arranging the 1MDB bonds, Thomas said in the statement.
Former senior Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner has pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to Malaysia and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing Goldman’s internal accounting controls.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has prioritized recouping funds believed to be lost through the troubled state fund, including by seeking about $6.5 billion compensation from Goldman Sachs for its involvement in 1MDB. The premier said the bank had offered 1 billion ringgit ($239 million), which he called “little” compared with the “huge killing” that the bank made from the bond deals.