Goldman banker’s messy love life scrutinized in 1MDB trial

March 1, 2022 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. trial stemming from an audacious scheme to ransack a Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MBD resumed Tuesday with a defense lawyer attacking the credibility of the government’s star witness, focusing on his history of lying about his marital status.

In his first day on cross-examination at the trial in federal court in Brooklyn, former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner admitted he forged documents in 2014 to dupe his now-estranged wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, into believing he was divorced so she would agree to marry him. Simmons is a model, reality TV personality and ex-wife of rap mogul Russell Simmons.

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Leissner testified he couldn’t recall the exact conversation that occurred when he showed Simmons the fake divorce papers at his Beverly Hills home in 2014, saying, “I just gave her the document, and that was it.”

The once high-flying financier admitted that his personal-life lies fit a pattern that dated to the early 2000s, when — while in the middle of seeking a quickie divorce from his first wife without her knowledge — he wed a Goldman colleague.

“So you were married to two women at the same time?” defense attorney Marc Agnifilo asked. “Yes,” Leissner responded.

Leissner is testifying against another former Goldman banker, Roger Ng, as part of a plea deal that he and Ng agreed to take tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks as compensation for their roles in a $4.5 billion scheme to loot 1MDB.

The defense contends prosecutors are making Ng a scapegoat for “corporate-wide” failures at Goldman that enabled the colossal fraud orchestrated by Leissner and Low Taek Jho, the Malaysian financier and fugitive socialite known as Jho Low.

Leissner, 52, pleaded guilty in 2018 to paying millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. He was ordered to forfeit $43.7 million as part of his guilty plea and agreed to testify against Ng.

The trial hit a snag last week with prosecutors’ admission that emails and other documents were mistakenly withheld from defense. The judge paused the case late last week to give the defense time to review the newly disclosed evidence before it began a cross-examination expected to last well into the week.

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Leissner testified on direct examination earlier Tuesday that once it was becoming clear around 2017 that there was a investigation into 1MDB, Low encouraged him to keep quiet while he sought a financial settlement with the administration of former President Donald Trump to make the case go away. Leissner said Low claimed he had met with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in China to try to broker a deal, but the witness made clear he had no direct knowledge that the meeting actually happened.

A former head of investment banking in Malaysia, Ng is the only Goldman banker to stand trial in the 1MDB scandal. The 49-year-old has pleaded not guilty to three counts, including conspiring to launder money and violating an anti-bribery law.

The embezzlement bankrolled lavish spending on jewels, art, a superyacht and luxury real estate. The spoils even helped finance Hollywood movies, including the 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”