Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs and two former bankers in connection with a corruption and money laundering investigation at the state-owned investment fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Goldman Sachs has been under scrutiny for its role in helping to raise funds for the 1MDB.
The US bank is being investigated in at least six countries.
Goldman Sachs called the charges
“misdirected” and said it would “vigorously defend them”.
The bank added: “The firm continues to co-operate with all authorities investigating these matters.”
Malaysia filed the charges against Goldman Sachs and its former employees Tim Leissner and Roger Ng.
Tim Leissner served as Goldman’s South East Asia chairman, and left the bank in 2016. Roger Ng was a managing director at Goldman until his departure in May 2014.
Malaysia has also brought charges against former 1MDB employee Jasmine Loo and financier Jho Low.
Malaysia’s attorney general Tommy Thomas said in a statement: “The charges arise from the proceeds of three bonds issued by the subsidiaries of 1MDB, which were arranged and underwritten by Goldman Sachs.”
Last month, Tim Leissner, Roger Ngand and Jho Low were served with criminal charges in the US in relation to 1MDB.
Tim Leissner pleaded guilty in the US to conspiring to launder money and violating anti-bribery laws.
In that case, prosecutors said Tim Leissner and Roger Ng worked with Jho Low to bribe government officials to win 1MDB business for Goldman Sachs.
US authorities said billions of dollars were embezzled from the state fund to buy art, property, a private jet- and even to help finance the Wolf ofWall Street movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The scandal has prompted investigations around the world and played a role in the election defeat earlier this year of Malaysia’s former PM Najib Razak, who is accused of pocketing $700 million from the fund he set up.
According to Malaysian immigration official, former PM Najib Razak has been banned from leaving the country.
The ban comes after Najib Razak said that he and his wife were planning to go on an overseas holiday on May 12.
Earlier this week, Najib Razak’s long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered a shock electoral defeat.
Najib Razak has been accused of diverting $700 million from a state investment fund in 2015, but has since been cleared by the authorities.
However, Malaysia’s new PM Mahathir Mohamad, who at 92 became the world’s oldest elected leader when he was sworn in on May 10, has said that Najib Razak could face a fresh investigation if sufficient evidence supports it.
Mahathir Mohamad has said that investigations will take place into alleged corruption in Malaysia, including the case involving the state investment fund.
He stood down as prime minister 15 years ago, but came out of retirement and defected to the opposition to take on and beat former protégé Najib Razak.
According to a Swiss prosecutor, about $4 billion may have been stolen from the Malaysian state-owned fund 1MDB.
The 1MDB fund was set up in 2009 to pay for major new economic and social developments in the country.
In 2015, Swiss authorities opened an investigation into 1MDB after it amassed more than $11 billion of debt.
Switzerland’s attorney general said on January 29 there were “serious indications that funds have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies”.
Some of the money, the office of Michael Lauber said, had been transferred to Swiss accounts held by Malaysian former public officials and current and former public officials from the United Arab Emirates.
“To date, however, the Malaysian companies concerned have made no comment on the losses they are believed to have incurred,” the attorney general’s statement said.
Michael Lauber called on Malaysian authorities to give full judicial assistance to their Swiss counterparts.
A Swiss investigation into 1MDB was opened last year, citing “suspected corruption of public foreign officials, dishonest management of public interests and money laundering”.
In a statement on January 30, 1MDB said it “remains committed to fully co-operating with any lawful authority and investigation”, but had not yet heard from any foreign legal authorities.
Regulators in the US and Hong Kong are also reported to be investigating 1MDB.
The 1MDB’s advisory board is chaired by Malaysian PM Najib Razak, who launched the fund soon after taking office in 2009.
In July 2015, Malaysia’s then-Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail linked a donation of $681 million made to Najib Razak’s account with companies and bodies which had ties to 1MDB.
Abdul Gani Patail was replaced, and, after an investigation, his successor last week cleared Najib Razak of corruption saying that the money was a personal donation by the Saudi royal family to the prime minister’s private bank account.
“I am satisfied that there is no evidence to show that the donation was a form of gratification given corruptly,” said Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Most of the money was later returned, he said.
Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission said it would seek a review of the attorney-general’s decision.