Tim Leissner, the former Goldman Sachs partner who pleaded guilty to crimes in connection to the 1MDB scandal, claimed concealing facts from internal compliance officials was “very much in line” with the culture at the bank.
Mr Leissner made the comments as he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy on August 28, according to a transcript of the hearing made public on Friday after The New York Times filed a motion to unseal it.
“I conspired with other employees and agents of Goldman Sachs very much in line of its culture of Goldman Sachs to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees of Goldman Sachs,” he said in a statement to a court in Brooklyn after he pleaded guilty.
The former Goldman banker admitted to hiding from others at the bank the involvement of Jho Low, the Malaysian financier, in three 1MDB bond issuances in 2012 and 2013. Goldman underwrote more than $6bn worth of bonds from 1MDB, earning $600m in fees.
The US has alleged that more than $2.7bn of that money was misappropriated by Mr Low, Mr Leissner and a second former Goldman banker, Roger Ng, who was arrested in Malaysia last week. A third Goldman banker whose conduct was referenced in Mr Leissner’s indictment but who was not charged was placed on leave last week.
Mr Low has denied any wrongdoing. He is still at large, according to the justice department. Mr Ng has not entered a plea and could not be reached for comment.
A spokesperson for Goldman had no immediate comment. An attorney for Mr Leissner declined to comment.
Goldman is under increasing pressure this week after it emerged Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and former chief executive, had met Mr Low in 2009.
The bank has long argued that it was misled by some of its bankers in south-east Asia about the 1MDB deals and did not know about the alleged misappropriation of money from the fund or the bribes allegedly paid to Malaysian government officials.
On Wednesday, David Solomon, Goldman’s new chief executive, said: “It is obviously very distressing to see two former Goldman Sachs employees went so blatantly around our policies and so blatantly broke the law.”
The bank is currently in negotiations with the justice department over what, if any, punishment it should receive for its role in the 1MDB scandal. It has hired a former close colleague of the DoJ’s criminal division chief as it attempts to stave off potential criminal charges.
The transcript of Mr Leissner’s plea hearing highlighted the efforts of prosecutors to build a case against the bank directly. The former Goldman banker, who was arrested in June according to court records, stated he acted “within the scope of my employment and with the intent to benefit Goldman Sachs and myself”.
He said that the 1MDB bond deals “resulted in substantial fees and revenues for Goldman Sachs, of which and in many cases, it was very proud of at the time”.
At the same time, he admitted to concealing his wrongdoing from compliance staff at Goldman and breaking its policies and procedures. “I knew that concealing Jho Low’s involvement as an intermediary was contrary to Goldman Sachs’s stated internal policies and procedures,” he said.
Despite facing a maximum jail sentence of 20 years on one of the conspiracy counts, Mr Leissner was apparently in good enough spirits to make jokes during the hearing, according to the transcript.
When the judge asked him if he was happy with the services provided by his lawyer, Robert O’Neill, he apparently paused.
“I thought I would make him sweat a little bit,” said Mr Leissner. “OK. A sense of humor this morning. OK,” replied Judge Margo Brodie.