Tim Leissner’s 1MDB scandal grows into political conspiracy involving ex-Fugees rapper Pras

Rick Steves

‘Pras’ was charged by a federal grand jury for running a back-channel campaign to get the Trump administration to drop an investigation of Jho Low and the 1MDB investment company.

The 1 Malaysia Development Berhad fund (1MDB) scandal is not over yet. Last week, a District of Columbia grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging American rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel and 1MDB ringleader Jho Low with orchestrating an unregistered, back-channel campaign starting in 2017.

The campaign was meant to influence the former Trump Administration and the Justice Department to drop the investigation of Jho Low and others in connection with the 1 MDB and to return a Chinese dissident back to China.

They allegedly conspired to conduct an unregistered lobbying campaign under the direction of Jho Low and Vice Minister of Public Security People’s Republic of China to have the 1MDB embezzlement investigation and forfeiture proceedings involving Jho Low and others closed.

Part of the conspiracy included having a Chinese dissident sent back to China. The dissident has been identified as China critic, Guo Wengui, an ally of Steve Bannon.

‘Pras’ and Low are also being charged with money laundering conspiracy related to the foreign lobbying campaign. They funneled millions of dollars of Low’s money into the U.S. presidential election and concealed the true sources by using rapper ‘Pras’ and approximately 20 straw donors.

Low and ‘Pras’ were accused in 2017 with conspiring to funnel $21.6 million in foreign money to the re-election of former President Obama. In 2018, ‘Pras’ “opened multiple accounts at financial institutions in the United States to maintain money funneled into the United States at Jho Low’s direction.”

Now, ‘Pras’ was charged by a federal grand jury for running a back-channel campaign to get the Trump administration to drop an investigation of Jho Low and the 1MDB investment company.

The political conspiracy involving ex-Fugees Pras aimed to make the 1MDB scandal disappear. Formally known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the Malaysian strategic development firm was at the center of a money-laundering scheme involving Tim Leissner.

Tim Leissner, the former Goldman Sachs Southeast Asia Chairman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to money laundering and FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) violations.

Roger Ng, the managing director of Goldman and head of investment banking in Malaysia is awaiting trial in federal court in New York.

Jho Low, a Malaysian financier, was at the center of the scheme but has not been apprehended. Together with Leissner and Ng, they managed a vast international corruption scheme over a five-year period in which they paid $1.6 billion in bribes to high-level government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

In exchange, they obtained lucrative underwriting contracts for Goldman Sachs worth approximately $6.5 billion in three bond raises for 1MDB from which Goldman earned over $600 million in fees.

In 2019, Tim Leissner settled with the SEC in a deal that includes a permanent bar from the securities industry. The SEC’s order required Leissner to pay disgorgement of $43.7 million, which will be offset by amounts paid pursuant to a forfeiture order as part of a resolution in a previously instituted parallel criminal action by the United States Department of Justice.

In July 2018, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) announced it was banning Tim Leissner from re-entering the industry for life in connection with his crimes relating to 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The same year,  Tim Leissner was banned by the Singaporean government for life from participating in any securities industry activity in Singapore as a result of his embroilment in the multi-billion dollar incident at 1MDB, representing the latest action by a government over the alleged crimes surrounding the Malaysian state investment fund.

Leissner quit his Goldman Sachs position in 2016 by the time the FBI swooped in on the scandal involving the Malaysian finance minister.

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