Ex-Goldman Banker To Plead Guilty To 1MDB Criminal Charges, Forfeit $44 Million

Last we checked in with former Goldman Sachs SE Asia chairman Tim Leissner, the banker was nearing the nadir of a dramatic fall from grace that resulted in him being terminated from the bank, as it sought to distance itself from a series of shady bond underwritings organized by Leissner.

Goldman, as first reported in 2016, was deeply involved with the Malaysian government's efforts to seed the 1MDB development fund, which, as we now know thanks to the DOJ, was used by former Malaysian President Najib Razak as his own personal slush fund, with most of the money going to purchase luxury yachts, paints - and some of the money was even used to help finance the Hollywood blockbuster "The Wolf of Wall Street". In total, Razak and his cronies are believed to have stolen nearly $700 million.

Leissner
Tim Leissner and Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner

Back in July, it was believed that Leissner was planning to cooperate with federal authorities, raising the possibility that he could help expose some of the endemically corrupt practices happening behind the scenes at the Vampire Squid. Since WSJ exposed the fraud back in 2015 after 1MDB missed bond payments, the scandal has riveted the financial press and drawn intense scrutiny from the DOJ, with AG Jeff Sessions calling it "kleptocracy at its worst."

And now it appears Leissner - who is married to Kimora Lee-Simmons - has done just that. As the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday morning, the former banker is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to launder money and violate the FCPA. As part of the settlement, he has agreed to a $44 million fine for his role in the scandal - a guilty plea that, we imagine, will lead to his eventual cooperation.

But while Leissner's situation is hardly ideal, his former deputy has it even worse. Roger Ng, the former deputy director of Goldman's SE Asia practice, is expected to be indicted by the DOJ, alongside Jho Low, the Malaysian financier whose exploits have been widely chronicled in the Western media. Low allegedly masterminded the 1MDB fraud.

Last week, Razak and his former Treasury secretary were charged with criminal breach of trust, months after Razak was imprisoned shortly after losing his reelection race to a rival who had promised to prosecute him.

As the DOJ prepares its announcement, attention will now turn to what, exactly, Leissner told investigators and whether his former employer could be held liable.