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Goldman Sachs reaches $3.9 settlement with Malaysia over role in 1MDB scandal

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Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has reached a deal that would see Malaysia drop all criminal and regulatory proceedings against the bank in exchange for $3.9 billion of reparations for its role in raising money for the troubled sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

The settlement includes a payment of $2.5 billion to Malaysia, the ministry of finance said on Friday. It also guarantees that at least another $1.4 billion will come from 1MDB assets seized by authorities around the world, according to a Goldman Sachs statement.

The lender expects to “materially increase” provisions for litigation and regulatory proceedings for the second quarter of 2020 due to the settlement, which does not resolve other pending governmental and regulatory probes related to 1MDB, it said.

The resolution with Malaysia moves Goldman closer to ending its biggest legal threat since the darkest days of the 2008 financial crisis. Goldman helped the Malaysian government raise $6.5 billion for the 1MDB fund, collecting some $600 million in fees from bond sales in 2012 and 2013, according to court filings. Prosecutors allege that part of that money was diverted to 1MDB officials and their associates.

The lender and the Department of Justice are close to an agreement in the U.S. after tussling over a potential guilty plea, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.

For Malaysia, the agreed sum along with money it has received from the Justice Department would amount to more than $4.5 billion, the finance ministry said.

Malaysian prosecutors brought charges against three units of the bank in 2018, then followed with additional accusations against Goldman’s 17 current and former executives last year. The bank has consistently denied wrongdoing, saying that former Malaysian officials lied about how proceeds from the bond sales would be used.

The settlement covers pending criminal proceedings against Goldman Sachs subsidiaries and certain current and former directors, the bank said in its statement. The deal won’t affect charges against fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or other parties, according to Malaysia’s finance ministry, which didn’t specify who that includes.

“This settlement represents Goldman’s acknowledgment of the misconduct of two of its former employees in the broader 1MDB fraudulent and corruption scheme,” Malaysia’s finance ministry said.

Goldman’s former Southeast Asia Chairman Tim Leissner has pleaded guilty to U.S. charges including conspiracy to launder money and has admitted to bribing officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates to get bond deals for the bank. Former Goldman banker Roger Ng has been extradited from Malaysia to the U.S. to face similar charges.

The settlement is a major milestone for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, a step toward ending Malaysia’s years-long effort to recover billions of dollars lost through the scandal. In 2018, the affair led to the country’s first change of government since its independence, when Mahathir Mohamad took over as prime minister from Najib Razak, who now faces multiple charges related to 1MDB. The Mahathir government demanded as much as $7.5 billion from Goldman Sachs, while its negotiators had touted figures of around $2 billion to $3 billion in private discussions.

The state fund remains a sore political point even after another power shift this February, as Malaysia’s current government under Muhyiddin counts on the backing of United Malays National Organisation, the former ruling party once led by Najib.(Updates with additional details from Goldman Sachs statement)

–With assistance from Cathy Chan.

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