Business

Abu Dhabi fund sues Goldman Sachs over 'central role' in 1MDB scam

Posted November 21, 2018 1:16 p.m. EST

— An Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund has sued Goldman Sachs for losses tied to the 1MDB embezzlement scandal. The lawsuit deepens scrutiny of Goldman for its alleged role in the saga.

International Petroleum Investment Company, and its subsidiary, Aabar, on Wednesday filed a summons in New York state court naming the investment bank as a defendant.

Goldman Sachs (GS) played a "central role" in implicating IPIC in the scheme to launder money from Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the fund said in a statement. 1MDB and IPIC had been business partners before the 1MDB fund erupted in controversy.

The Abu Dhabi fund claims Goldman conspired with others to bribe former executives of IPIC and Aabar, inducing them to "misuse the companies' names, networks, and infrastructures to further the criminal schemes and to personally benefit Goldman Sachs" and others, according to the court filing. It did not say how much in damages IPIC is seeking.

The bank said it intends to fight the claims.

"We are in the process of assessing the details of allegations and fully expect to contest the claim vigorously," a Goldman Sachs spokesman said in a statement.

The IPIC suit also named as defendants ex-Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, as well as Andrea Vella, who Goldman has placed on leave.

Earlier this month, the US Justice Department announced that Leissner, Goldman's former chairman of Southeast Asia, had pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act through the payment of bribes to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

The government also filed charges against Ng, and Jho Low, the Malaysian financier who US officials say was behind much of the embezzlement plot. Ng was arrested in Malaysia and Low remains at large.

CNN has been unable to reach Ng for comment. A spokesperson for Low has said that Low maintains his innocence, and "simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case."

Vella, who had served as Goldman's co-head of investment banking in Asia before he was demoted last month, was not named in the US government's lawsuits. Goldman Sachs is reviewing his alleged conduct related to the 1MDB case. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

In 2012 and 2013, Goldman Sachs arranged three large bond offerings for 1MDB. The bond sales, which raised a total of $6.5 billion, earned Goldman Sachs about $600 million in fees, according to court documents.

But more than $2.7 billion of the proceeds from those offerings was stolen from 1MDB, according to the Justice Department.

The bank, which has reportedly been meeting with Justice Department officials, maintains that rogue employees misled its legal and compliance teams about the deals.