Malaysia files charges against Goldman execs

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia filed criminal charges Friday against 17 current and former directors of three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, piling further pressure on the Wall Street titan over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal.

Huge sums were looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad in a globe-spanning fraud, which allegedly involved ex-leader Najib Razak and his inner circle.

Goldman’s role has been under scrutiny as it helped arrange a series of bond issues worth $6.5 billion for the investment vehicle.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad re-opened investigations into the 1MDB affair last year after defeating Najib at the polls, in large part due to public anger at the scandal, and pressure has been steadily mounting on the bank since.

Announcing the latest charges, Attorney General Tommy Thomas said: “Custodial sentences and criminal fines will be sought against the accused… given the severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds.”

Goldman said in a statement it believed the charges were “misdirected” and would be “vigorously defended”.

Thomas listed the names of the 17 accused, whom he said were directors of three Goldman subsidiaries in 2012 and 2013.

In December, Malaysia filed charges against the units — Goldman Sachs International, Goldman Sachs (Asia), and Goldman Sachs (Singapore) — and two ex-employees.

They were accused of giving false statements which led to $2.7 billion being misappropriated in relation to the bond issues.

Goldman vowed to fight those charges, saying the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to the bank.

More than eight million Guatemalans will head to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president with the country mired in a political scandal over a controversial migration deal with the United States.

Former first lady Sandra Torres topped the first round of voting in June but conservative Alejandro Giammattei is the favorite to win the run-off and replace Jimmy Morales, according to a poll by the Freedom and Development Foundation and CID Gallup.

One of Morales’ last acts as president was to authorize an agreement with Washington that designated Guatemala as a “safe third country,” meaning the US can turn away asylum seekers who have passed through the Central American country without seeking refuge there.

The pact — part of US President Donald Trump’s campaign to stem migration at his country’s southern border — has proved highly unpopular in Guatemala, with demonstrators blocking roads and occupying the University of San Carlos.

In a poll by Prodatos for the Prensa Libre newspaper, 82 percent of respondents opposed it.

For whoever wins on Sunday, the agreement will be an albatross around their neck.

Risa Grais-Targow of Eurasia Group described it as a “lose-lose” situation for the poll winner, saying the pact would be “a major strain on the economy” if it overcomes legal challenges and takes effect.

The deal allows the US to send Honduran and El Salvadoran asylum seekers who passed through Guatemala back to the poor, crime-stricken Central American country — an influx that it is ill-prepared to receive.

Rejecting the migration pact would run the “risk of retaliation from Trump,” Grais-Targow said, after the US leader threatened a travel ban, tariffs and remittance fees if the country didn’t bend to his will.

Remittances from Guatemalans in the US are a crucial part of the economy, reaching a record $9.3 billion last year. That’s comparable to Guatemala’s export revenue of $10.5 billion.

According to the World Bank, remittances account for 12 percent of the country’s GDP.