Goldman Sachs pays $3.9bn to settle 1MDB corruption scandal

Goldman Sachs has reached a $3.9bn (£3.1bn) settlement with the Malaysian government over the 1MDB corruption scandal.

The deal struck by the Wall Street bank, which allegedly failed to act while $4.5bn was looted from its client, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, involves a cash payment of $2.5bn and a guarantee to recover $1.4bn in assets invested with the fraudulently diverted money. Goldman Sachs underwrote and arranged bond sales for the wealth fund totalling $6bn.

The Malaysian finance ministry said including what it had already received from the US Department of Justice, more than $4.5bn “will be returned to the people of Malaysia”.

“This settlement represents assets that rightfully belong to the Malaysian people,” said Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Aziz, Malaysia’s finance minister. “We are securing more money from Goldman Sachs compared to previous attempts, which were far below expectations.”

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In November, the Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, confirmed he had rejected an offer from Goldman Sachs worth $1.75bn. “We are not satisfied with that amount,” he said at the time, adding that the bank needed to “respond reasonably”.

“We are also good to be able to resolve the outside the court system, which would have cost a lot of time, money and resources,” said Tengku Zafrul. “With this settlement we will have the return of the monies expedited.”

The funds were allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB in a fraud said to have involved the former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, the Malaysian financier Jho Low, and his associates.

The funds were allegedly used to buy everything from from yachts to artwork, and fund the production of Hollywood films including The Wolf of Wall Street.

Razak, 66, faces several corruption trials in Malaysia, and has pleaded not guilty, with the first ending last month with a verdict due to be handed down on 28 July.

Razak, who was voted out of power in 2018, also faces dozens of criminal charges relating to the fraud at 1MDB, a fund he co-founded in 2009.

Low, who has also denied wrongdoing, faces charges in Malaysia and the US.

Last year, the Goldman Sachs chief executive, David Solomon, apologised to the people of Malaysia over the role of the bank’s former employee Tim Leissner in the 1MDB scandal and the effect it had on the country.

Leissner, a former partner at Goldman Sachs in Asia, pleaded guilty in the US in August 2018 to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit $43.7m.

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