Najib Razak, the disgraced former prime minister of Malaysia, is appealing his corruption convictions after being sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million. The High Court delivered the guilty verdict in July 2020 for abuse of power, criminal breach of trust (CBT), and money laundering – all involving RM42 million stolen from SRC International Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of 1MDB).
His appeal failed in December 2021 after the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision. Not only all the 3 judges had thrown out Najib’s appeal, they also used harsh language, calling the ex-PM’s corruption a “national embarrassment”. Najib now has only one final shot at the Federal Court, the highest court and the final appellate court in the country.
But Mr Najib has since lost much of his earlier confidence. Shafee Abdullah, his leading attorney whom he proudly introduced to journalists as “hotshot lawyer” in 2018, has been dropped. The world’s biggest crook wants to appoint Queen’s Counsel (QC) from the United Kingdom to appeal in his final appeal. His appeal, however, could be jeopardised following the trial of Tim Leissner.
Leissner, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’ Southeast Asia operation, has exposed more dirty backroom and bedroom deals – sex, bribes and blackmail – during his testimony in a U.S. federal court in the ongoing 1MDB trial of Roger Ng, Goldman’s Malaysian head of investment banking. Mr Ng had received RM35 million in kickbacks to take part in the money laundering scheme.
While 52-year-old Leissner pleaded guilty in August 2018 to conspiring to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws and money laundering, Ng has pleaded not guilty to helping launder millions of dollars looted from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Ng’s lawyer said he is a “fall guy” for one of the biggest financial scandals in Wall Street history, as Leissner testifies as a government witness against Ng.
Even though the trial in a Brooklyn federal court was supposed to focus on Goldman’s role in the international scandal, Leissner’s testimony has done more damage than Malaysian former premier Najib had wanted at this critical time. U.S. prosecutors said Ng helped two co-conspirators – his former boss Leissner and Jho Low, Najib’s partner-in-crime, in embezzling money from 1MDB.
Hoping to get a lighter punishment for being the star prosecution witness against his “best friend” 49-year-old Ng, Mr Leissner testified how Jho Low was rejected by Goldman as a client due to Low’s bad publicity – wild parties and bottomless (but suspicious) source of money to fund his lavish lifestyles. Still, Leissner and Ng continued to deal with Low in their private capacity.
Leissner, a German, and Ng, a Malaysian citizen, saw the opportunity to pocket some of the profits as both helped Jho Low to siphon off billions of dollars from 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Berhad). Even when the 1MDB scandal was first exploded, only one name – Tim Leissner – was put forward as the bad apple. He merely resigned in Feb 2016 without being charged.
It would take the downfall of Najib Razak in the May 2018 General Election to reveal the relations between Najib and Tim Leissner, Roger Ng and Jho Low. After admitting to enriching himself to the tune of more than US$200 million in proceeds from 1MDB bonds that flowed into accounts controlled by him and a relative in Hong Kong, Leissner paid only US$43.7 million to the U.S. as part of a deal to turn witness.
But even before the US$6.5 billion in bonds that Goldman helped 1MDB to raise between 2009 and 2014, which allowed the U.S. bank to earn a whopping US$600 million in fees, the bribery in the form of back-scratching had already begun. During one Thanksgiving trip to New York in 2009, Leissner arranged for Najib to meet with Goldman’s then-CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, ahead of major bond deals for 1MDB.
In return for the lucrative business deals, Leissner revealed that Goldman was to get jobs at the bank for Najib’s three children, something that the ex-PM liked to call “You help me, I help you”. Unfortunately, the U.S. investment bank declined to hire Najib’s daughter (Nooryana Najwa Najib), forcing Leissner to pulling some strings to get her a position with TPG Capital, an American private equity firm in Hong Kong, instead.
Najib Razak has today rubbished Leissner’s testimony, saying in his Facebook – “This didn’t happen and none of my children was ever offered a job at Goldman Sachs and had never worked at that US bank”. As usual, the serial liar was telling only half-truth. What happened was all his children, including his favourite daughter, were not qualified to work at Goldman Sachs.
To prevent a red flag from being raised at Goldman, Leissner and Ng decided to use code names like “friend” (to refer to Jho Low) and “PMO” (Prime Minister’s Office) to hide Jho Low’s identity after the bank officially declined to accept Low as a private wealth client, largely due to his source of wealth. Jho Low was “essential” because he secretly fed Goldman bankers with inside information.
But it wasn’t just all work and no play. Leissner admitted to having several affairs while working for Goldman, including with Anis Jamaludin, the daughter of Jamaluddin Jarjis, Najib’s best friend. A former Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Jamaluddin was appointed as Malaysian Ambassador to the U.S. in July 2009 after he sexually harassed a female worker of a restaurant at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
According to a LinkedIn page, Ms Anis worked (yes, she’s more qualified than Najib’s daughter) for Goldman as an investment banking analyst in Singapore from July to November 2010. So, it was not coincidence that Goldman was granted a licence to operate in Malaysia in December 2009 and began pitching for business, including the successful deals in arranging three bond sales for 1MDB.
As it turned out, besides Anis Jamaluddin, Leissner’s other Malaysian lover was Rohana Rozhan, who was then CEO of Malaysian media giant Astro Malaysia Holdings, a company owned by Ananda Krishnan, one of the richest men in the country. The Goldman banker was in a romantic relationship with Rozana from 2003 to 2013, until he decided to marry U.S. TV personality Kimora Lee Simmons in 2013.
However, Rozana was upset when Leissner wanted to end the relationship and had blackmailed to expose him unless he buy her a US$10 million house in London. Leissner said – “If I didn’t buy her a house, she would tell the authorities about my involvement in the 1MDB scandal. She was threatening to expose me. At the time, 2013, I was very fearful of that,”
Ng’s attorney Marc Agnifilo, however, has attacked Leissner’s reputation, accusing the banker as a “double bigamist” – married two women at the same time – twice. The defence attorney also accused Leissner of forging documents including divorce papers and of having sexual relations with Jasmine Loo Ai Swan, formerly general counsel for 1MDB who received a US$5 million from the 1MDB fund.
Anis Jamaluddin and Rohana Rozhan were just two of three women whom Tim Leissner managed to fish in Malaysia. The third woman was Elia Geneid, the niece of Abdul Taib Mahmud, the most corrupt former Sarawak Chief Minister (1981-2014) who was promoted as the Governor by the equally corrupt ruling government of Barisan Nasional.
Elia is the daughter of Taib’s powerful sister, Raziah Mahmud Geneid. In his testimony, Leissner revealed the niece of Taib was accompanying him (even though Leissner was legally married to someone else), along with Ng and Jho Low during a trip to Beijing in 2009, which unsurprisingly coincided with Najib’s official visit to China.
While the former Goldman’s top gun admitted to the U.S. court that he was driven by greed and ambition, he also testified that Jho Low had advised him of people in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi who needed to be bribed. The name on the top list was Najib Razak and the United Arab Emirates Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour, who was implicated in an audio recording back in 2020.
In the audio recording, which was leaked to former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Latheefa Koya, Najib asked the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed to help fabricate a loan agreement to show that Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, had received financing from the UAE state-funded International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and not from money siphoned from 1MDB.
Najib was caught seeking help from the UAE crown prince in the audio recording – “The premise is relatively small, if there can be an agreement with Sheikh Mansour to have a loan agreement signed that will show that it is a legitimate financing package, it’s not money laundering“. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan was then chairman of IPIC.
The scandal involved global investigation across three continents, where money was spent on high-end property, luxury goods and lavish holidays and parties involving Najib, his family and partner Jho Low. The U.S.-DOJ investigation results says that over US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund, with some of the money used to buy the private jet, a super yacht, Picasso paintings, jewellery and real estate.
Because Tim Leissner has a deal with the U.S. Justice Department to turn witness against fellow colleague Roger Ng, his testimonies carries weight. It would be extremely hard for even a Queen’s Counsel from UK to defend or deflect Najib’s embezzlement in the Federal Court. The only way out is to become the powerful prime minister again in order to escape prison.