Alibaba president Michael Evans among 17 charged over 1MDB scandal

Alibaba president Michael Evans. (Bloomberg pic)

HONG KONG: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd president Michael Evans is among 17 current and former Goldman Sachs directors facing criminal charges over their alleged role in US$6.5 billion (RM27.2 billion) of bond sales by 1MDB

Evans, the international face of China’s e-commerce leader, was among a group of individuals who served as directors at three Goldman units that Malaysia has accused of misleading investors when arranging deals for 1MDB.

The Alibaba honcho is a familiar face to the Chinese internet titan’s investors and a fixture in the media as well as international conference circuit, and is charged with helping helm Alibaba’s global expansion.

Evans, who joined Alibaba in 2015 as one of its highest-profile recent hires, has a mandate to help realise billionaire co-founder Jack Ma’s ambition to get half its revenue from outside of China.

The president helped orchestrate the Chinese giant’s push into Southeast Asia through the acquisition of a stake in Lazada, establishing its largest overseas beach-head.

The company is expanding into Malaysia and counts the country in particular as a key partner for its so-called E-WTP or electronic world trading initiative.

Evans is also overseeing Alibaba.com’s expansion in the US and Ma’s promise to President Donald Trump to create a million jobs.

The executive, like others charged, now faces custodial sentences and criminal fines in a case with global ramifications.

Supposed to promote development, 1MDB has spurred criminal and regulatory investigations around the world that have cast an unflattering spotlight on deal-making, election spending and political patronage under former prime minister Najib Razak.

Of US$8 billion that 1MDB raised via bond sales, the US alleges more than half was siphoned off.

An Alibaba representative said the company had no immediate comment.

Malaysia will seek custodial sentences and criminal fines against the individuals, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said in a statement today.

The penalties sought reflect “the severity of the scheme to defraud and the fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds, the lengthy period over which the offences were planned and executed”, as well as the breadth of Goldman units and officers involved in arranging the 1MDB bonds.

“We believe the charges announced today, along with those against three Goldman Sachs entities announced in December last year, are misdirected and will be vigorously defended,” a Goldman Sachs spokesman said by email.