Marc Kasowitz, the longtime lawyer for President Donald Trump’s family, is representing the Malaysian financier accused in an indictment unsealed on Thursday of laundering money stolen from a state-owned investment fund by buying New York City real estate and financing Hollywood movies.
Federal prosecutors in New York allege that Kasowitz’s client, Low Taek Jho, known as “Jho Low,” and co-defendant Ng Chong Hwa, a Goldman Sachs banker also known as “Roger Ng,” defrauded $2.7 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund, and used the laundered money to enrich themselves and bribe officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
According to the release and media reports, prosecutors say that Low conspired with Ng and Tim Leissner, another Goldman Sachs bankers who has pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to misappropriate funds from bonds issued by the Malaysian investment fund.
Funds transferred to a 1MDB official tied to the scheme were used to produce “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which depicts the Eastern District U.S. attorney’s prosecution of former stock trader Jordan Belfort for securities fraud in the late 1990s.
The three co-conspirators are in a massive $4.5 billion embezzlement scheme from 1MDB. Of those accused, Low kept a relatively high profile, hobnobbing with stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Alicia Keys. On Lindsay Lohan’s birthday, Low gifted her with 23 bottles of Cristal champagne.
In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether Low used laundered money to retain Kasowitz, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and King & Spalding partner Bobby Burchfield.
Leissner is represented by Robert O’Neill of Washington, D.C.-based Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Kasowitz did not respond to a request for comment and O’Neill could not be reached for comment.
Leissner has been ordered to forfeit $43.7 million in connection with his offenses, the release states.
Ng was arrested on Thursday in Malaysia and Low remains at large. According to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and media reports, Goldman Sachs underwrote $6 billion in bonds issued by 1MDB to fund projects; as part of the scheme, prosecutors allege, Low, Ng and Leissner conspired to bribe officials in the Malaysian government and in 1MDB to take their business to Goldman Sachs.
“The firm continues to cooperate with all authorities investigating this matter,” a Goldman Sachs spokesman said in an email.
The firm made $600 million for its work with 1MDB, according to the release, which boosted up the reputations and paychecks of Ng and Leissner.
Central to the scheme, prosecutors allege, was Low’s close connections with government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. Low, Ng and Leissner, as well as other co-conspirators, allegedly leveraged Low’s cushy relationships to get business for Goldman Sachs with the promise of hundreds of millions in bribes.
The conspirators allegedly used $137 million of the bond proceeds to buy high-end works of art from a New York City auction house and $35 million to purchase a condo in the city.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacquelyn Kasulis, Drew Rolle, Jennifer Ambuehl, Woo Lee, Mary Ann McCarthy, Katherine Nielsen and Nikhila Raj are prosecuting the case.