American investigators probing the Malaysian state-run fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd are looking into whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. misled bondholders when it sold securities issued by the investment fund, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday citing a source. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Goldman Sachs over allegations of money laundering and corruption as an adviser to the 1MDB.
Officials are trying to establish if Goldman Sachs’ proceeds from bond deals done for 1MDB were not being used for the intended purpose, the source told the Journal. Investigators are also looking into whether the investment firm’s hiring practices in the region violated U.S. anti-corruption laws, the report added.
According to the Journal, Goldman Sachs advised 1MDB on three acquisitions and arranged the sale of three bonds worth a total of $6.5 billion that got the firm $650 million. Goldman Sachs' last transaction with 1MDB was in 2013 when it sold $3 billion in bonds for what the government fund reportedly said would help pay for a real estate project in Kuala Lumpur.
The report added that 1MDB officials told Goldman Sachs to transfer the proceeds from the deal to the fund’s account at private Swiss bank BSI SA. The huge transfer drew the attention of lawyers at Linklaters, Goldman Sachs’ legal counsel on the transactions, the Journal reported. Kevin Wong, a partner at the law firm, reportedly alerted Goldman Sachs that the money was being sent to the private bank.
However, the Wall Street firm approved the transaction and thought that it had to abide by the contract and transfer the money to the account 1MDB specified, the Journal reported adding that Linklaters eventually signed off on the transaction.
Goldman Sachs reportedly approved the entire offering, buying all of $3 billion and then resold the securities to other investors at higher prices. Goldman Sachs made nearly $300 million in fees from the bond sale, the report added.
Tim Leissner, the former chairman of the Southeast Asian division of the global investment firm, was recently subpoenaed by the U.S. authorities investing the allegations. Leissner worked on several significant deals for the Malaysian fund, and netted hundreds of millions of dollars for the investment bank, according to Bloomberg.
The 1MDB has been at the center of scandal since last July, when hundreds of millions of dollars were traced to the personal bank accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Allegations against Najib were first made in a July 2015 report by the Journal, which said that investigators tracked the money from an account at Falcon Private Bank in Singapore to accounts in Malaysia. Najib has consistently denied the allegations.