By Aparajita Saxena
(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> Chief Executive Officer David Solomon has told employees he is “personally outraged” that any of the bank’s officials would take the actions laid out in U.S. government charges of fraud involving Malaysia’s state controlled investment bank, 1MDB.
Solomon made the comments in a voicemail sent to employees on Wednesday, weeks after U.S. prosecutors unveiled criminal charges against two former Goldman bankers tied to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, according to a transcript of a voicemail sent to employees on Wednesday which the bank gave to Reuters on Thursday.
The government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, in 2009.
An estimated $4.5 billion (£3.5 billion) was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates between 2009 and 2014, the U.S. Justice Department has alleged. Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing in connection with alleged graft involving 1MDB.
Tim Leissner, a former partner for Goldman Sachs in Asia, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million.
Roger Ng, the other charged former Goldman banker, was arrested in Malaysia at the request of U.S. authorities.
“It goes without saying that they (the former employees) violated the firm’s policies and procedures and acted in conflict with all that we stand for,” Solomon said in Wednesday’s voicemail to Goldman staff.
Goldman has been under scrutiny for its role in helping 1MDB raise funds through bond offerings, from which it earned around $600 million in fees, an amount critics said exceeded the normal level for fees.
Goldman has previously said that it “continues to cooperate with all authorities investigating this matter.” It has denied any wrongdoing.
“1MDB remains an ongoing investigation, and we will continue to work with the Department of Justice and other authorities to get to the bottom of what happened and to move forward,” Solomon added in Wednesday’s voice mail.
Malaysia’s current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said Goldman’s bankers “cheated” the country in dealings with the state fund, while Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said his country would seek a “full refund” of fees the bank earned.
Goldman’s shares have fallen nearly 10 percent since the U.S. prosecutors filed a lawsuit against two former Goldman bankers. The stock has fallen more than 20 percent this year.
While U.S. prosecutors have previously filed civil asset forfeiture suits for assets allegedly bought with some of the stolen funds, the action against the former Goldman bankers are the first criminal charges the Justice Department has brought against individuals in the case under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law targeting official bribery abroad.
At least six countries, including Malaysia, the United States and Switzerland, have been investigating alleged thefts from 1MDB.
The 1MDB investigations in the United States and Malaysia have gathered pace since Najib unexpectedly lost a general election in May to Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power 15 years after he retired as prime minister.
The story was first reported by Bloomberg on Thursday. https://bloom.bg/2Pxoq6u
(Reporting By Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by James Emmanuel, Neal Templin and Clive McKeef)