PETALING JAYA: Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) approved an “overnight” foreign exchange transfer of US$1 billion from 1MDB to PetroSaudi International (PSI), after then central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz’s husband had allegedly been bribed to “make it happen”, former banker Tim Leissner told a US court.
Leissner, the star witness in the trial of Roger Ng, former Goldman Sachs head of investment banking in Malaysia, described the overnight transfer of the US$1 billion from 1MDB to PetroSaudi as “unprecedented”.
It is understood that this US$1 billion included US$700 million to Good Star Ltd allegedly controlled by Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low.
Court documents sighted by FMT show that Leissner, a former Goldman Sachs executive, told a jury at a federal court in New York on Tuesday that when it became known that 1MDB had made the transfer, Ng related to him what he had heard about how the BNM approval for the transfer was given “that quickly”.
Leissner said: “You have to understand in 2009 Malaysia still had capital controls in place, which would require an investment of that size to be approved by Bank Negara in terms of the money leaving the country.
“A billion dollars was wired overnight from Malaysia to the joint venture and that it had been done because the husband of the then governor Zeti at Bank Negara had received a bribe to make that happen.
“So, overnight that money was transferred, which was unprecedented at that time. No approval was obtained that quickly from Bank Negara.”
When asked by prosecutors if a bribe was paid, Leissner said he could not independently confirm it.
Prosecutor: Sitting here today do you have any idea if it was true at all that there were any bribes paid in connection with the PetroSaudi-1MDB joint venture?
Leissner: I don’t know independently if bribes had been paid.
Last November, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission revealed that at least RM65 million in 1MDB-linked funds recovered from Singapore were held by a company belonging to Zeti’s husband, Tawfiq Ayman.
Zeti’s husband and two sons have admitted to knowing about the money in statutory declarations (SDs) signed in March last year. The money was in the accounts of Cutting Edge Industries in Singapore and the three admitted to being the beneficial owners of the accounts.
The SDs, sighted by FMT, were certified to be authentic by the attesting lawyers.
FMT is attempting to reach Tawfiq for comment.