Singapore steps up 1MDB probe, fines StanChart, hauls up former GS banker

Singapore‘s monetary authority on Friday announced its intention to issue a prohibition order against a former Goldman Sachs director who was responsible for managing the investment bank’s relationship with the controversial Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.



The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it intended to issue a prohibition order against former Goldman director Tim Leissner for allegedly making false statements on behalf of the investment bank without its knowledge of consent.

The order would prohibit Leissner from taking part in the management of any capital market services in Singapore for 10 years.

MAS said Leissner issued an authorized reference letter to a financial institution based in Luxembourg in June 2015, using a Goldman Sachs Asia letterhead, which said the investment bank conducted due diligence on Low Taek Jho and his family and did not detect any money laundering concerns.

MAS added these statements were untrue and were made by Leissner without Goldman’s knowledge.

Leissner managed client relationship with 1MDB for all its three bond issues from 2012 to 2013.

MAS also said it completed its inspection of Standard Chartered bank’s Singapore branch in relation to its 1MDB-related fund flows which took place from 2010 to 2013.

The monetary authority said it found significant lapses in the bank’s customer due diligence measures and controls for ongoing monitoring and said it resulted in numerous breaches of MAS’s anti-money-laundering regulations.

Standard Chartered’s Singapore branch will be fined 5.2 million Singapore dollars ($3.65 million), MAS said.

A Standard Chartered spokesperson responded to CNBC’s request for comments and said the bank regretted that 1MDB-related transactions passed through Standard Chartered Bank Singapore accounts between 2010 and early 2013.

“We reported the suspicious transactions, both before and at the time we exited the accounts in early 2013, and have been fully cooperating with the authorities investigating this matter.”

The spokesperson added the bank will donate the profits related to the 1MDB transactions to charitable causes.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman told CNBC in an emailed statement the investment bank had discovered the incident in January 2016 and “identified as a clear violation of the firm’s standards.”

“At that time we promptly took steps to separate Mr. Leissner from the firm and reported the matter to regulatory authorities in several jurisdictions, including Singapore. We continue to cooperate with the MAS,” the spokesperson said. Leissner left Goldman in February 2016.

The troubled Malaysian state development fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), has been at the center of investigations and court cases globally following allegations that billions of dollars were looted from it.

The long-running scandal has included allegations that diverted funds flowed to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s personal bank account and to his stepson, Riza Aziz, whose company, Red Granite Pictures, produced the film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Low was a friend of Najib’s family; in June, Reuters reported an investigation found Low was the sole owner of a company called Good Star, which received $1.03 billion from 1MDB.

Najib, Aziz and Low have previously denied any wrongdoing.

In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. investigators were examining if the investment bank violated the Bank Secrecy Act for not informing regulators about a potentially suspicious transaction involving 1MDB.

The Journal reported after raising $3 billion via a bond issue for 1MDB, Goldman sent the proceeds to a Swiss bank account controlled by the troubled state fund, with much of that amount then disappearing offshore and some reappearing in Najib’s account.

In July, U.S. authorities issued subpoenas to Goldman for documents related to its dealings with 1MDB, according to the Journal.

MAS separately announced it found “lapses and weaknesses” in anti-money-laundering controls in Singapore-based banks DBS, UBS, and Standard Chartered related to 1MDB. MAS also said it was examining the extent of Goldman’s local unit’s involvement in bond deals for 1MDB.

— Leslie Shaffer contributed to this report.

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