Press release | Nov. 1, 2018

Global Witness responds to US Justice Department’s charges against former Goldman Sachs bankers and Malaysian Financier Jho Low

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Rarely are charges filed against individual bankers for facilitating corruption and money laundering – but today is a definitely an important exception. We are now one step closer to justice being served in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the world. $4.5 billion was stolen from a Malaysian development fund – money that was embezzled, laundered and spent on luxury properties, high-end art and lavish lifestyles, as well as payments to then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

But two potential prosecutions won’t change the systemic problems this case has revealed. At nearly every point in this scandal, the bankers, accountants, lawyers involved were either complicit in it or failed to spot this dirty cash and prevent it from being taken in the first place. Now is the time for accountability – not only for the individual bankers, but for the institutions involved and the anti-money laundering regime itself.  

For example, why did Goldman Sachs as a whole choose to underwrite the bonds in the first place? Further inquiries should be made into Goldman’s due diligence process. In addition, branches of global banks RBS and Standard Chartered have been fined in Singapore and Switzerland for their role in this scandal, but to date the UK Financial Crimes Agency has launched no further inquiry we’re aware of. Lastly, major law firms operating in the US allowed the use of their client accounts to help Malaysian financier Jho Low move this money. This isn’t technically illegal, but it’s a gaping hole in the anti-money laundering system that needs to be addressed. Regulators in the US and the UK should close loopholes in our system and widen the net to make sure the AML rules on the books for these institutions are more than just words on paper.

Today, we’re one step closer to justice, but more needs to be done to hold to the financial intermediaries – the bankers and lawyers and others – who helped facilitate these corrupt transactions to account.”

- Mark Hays, Anti-Money Laundering Campaign Leader, Global Witness



Notes to editor:

Earlier this year, Global Witness put out the report “The Real Wolves of Wall Street” on the banks, lawyers and auditors involved in the 1MDB scandal.  

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