July 3, 2019 / 9:14 AM / 20 days ago

Hong Kong regulator bans former Goldman banker Leissner for life over 1MDB

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s financial regulator has banned former Goldman Sachs (GS.N) banker Tim Leissner from re-entering the industry for life for his crimes linked to the multi-billion-dollar scandal at the Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB.

The sanction is latest for Leissner who has already been barred from the banking sector in the United States and Singapore for his links to the scandal. Goldman itself is being probed by the U.S. Justice Department for its role as underwriter and arranger for $6.5 billion worth of 1MDB bonds.

Apart from Leissner, another former Goldman banker Roger Ng and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho have been charged in the United States for links to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

An estimated $4.5 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.

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

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said it considered Leissner’s conduct demonstrated “a serious lack of honesty and integrity” and called into question his fitness and properness to be a licensed person.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman said Leissner deliberately hid certain activities from the bank and repeatedly violated its policies and procedures.

“We continue to cooperate with all authorities looking into these matters,” he said.

A lawyer for Leissner could not be immediately reached in the United States outside of usual business hours.

Leissner was licensed under Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Ordinance for activities including advising on securities and corporate finance for Goldman Sachs between April 1, 1998 and Feb. 24, 2016, the SFC statement said.

He is currently not licensed by the SFC, it added.

In March, the U.S. Federal Reserve barred Leissner and Ng from the banking industry for their involvement in “a scheme that illegally diverts billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund”.

Singapore’s central bank had also issued a lifetime prohibition order against Leissner in December last year, upgrading a 2017 10-year prohibition order against him.

At least six countries, including Malaysia, which has also filed charges against Goldman and its two former bankers, the United States and Switzerland, have been investigating the alleged thefts from 1MDB.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Jennifer Hughes; Editing by Neil Fullick and Himani Sarkar

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