Najib insists had only ‘professional’ ties to Jho Low, blames Goldman Sachs for 1MDB fiasco

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
Najib said that he saw Low as a potential link to the Saudi government and the Middle East, and nothing more. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak maintained today that his relationship with Malaysia’s most wanted man Low Taek Jho was strictly professional and was forged with the country’s economic interests in mind even as he continues to be flamed for the alleged theft of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

The former prime minister also blamed US investment banking goliath Goldman Sachs for failing to safeguard Malaysia’s interests by not alerting his administration of Low’s efforts to defraud the Malaysian investment firm.

“My relationship with Jho Low was professional, I saw that he could bring in investment opportunities. If he did anything wrong, any breach of trust, action must be taken against him,” Najib told Malay daily Sinar Harian in a live interview broadcast on Facebook this morning.

“Goldman Sachs was appointed, they were responsible to safeguard Malaysia’s interests, if they failed, how was I to know?” Najib said, referring to embezzlement of 1MDB funds.

“The investment bank, auditors, lawyers did not play the role they were supposed to play,” the Pekan MP said.

Najib explained that he originally saw Low as a potential link to the Saudi government and the Middle East, and that the latter had a track record in securing deals.

“What he did personally, I did not know, I only found out later.

“I was not involved, I did not know at all,” Najib said.

Goldman is coming under heavy scrutiny after convicted ex-banker Tim Leissner and another former banker, Roger Ng, were indicted on criminal charges in the US.

Details from the US Justice Department’s investigation suggest that the bank was complicit in Low’s efforts to defraud the Malaysian investment firm.

According to US prosecutors, the investment bank generated an “above average” US$600 million in fees for its work with 1MDB, which included three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised US$6.5 billion. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit US$43.7 million (RM181.9 million).

Ng was arrested here and is fighting his extradition to the US, but has agreed to surrender US$29 million believed linked to 1MDB.

Najib himself is facing 38 charges related to 1MDB and a former subsidiary. Low remains at large.

The corruption scandal spanning over 10 countries remains under active investigation here and in at least six other foreign jurisdictions.

Yesterday, the International Petroleum Investment Company sued Goldman for allegedly conspiring against the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund to further a criminal scheme by 1MDB.

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