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Goldman Sachs hired the daughter of a key ally of Malaysia’s prime minister at a time when the US bank was seeking to expand its business in the country, it emerged on Thursday.
The bank made the appointment as Tim Leissner, then Goldman’s co-president for Southeast Asia, was working to forge closer business ties in Malaysia, where it would later win valuable business with the government’s 1MDB investment fund.
Investigators are probing allegations of misconduct and the suspected misappropriation of state funds in relation to 1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister.
Goldman was granted a licence to operate in Malaysia in December 2009 and began pitching for business. Mr Leissner later played a key role in controversial bond sales for the fund.
In 2010, Goldman hired Anis Jamaludin, daughter of Jamaluddin Jarjis, a Malaysian politician and close confidant of Mr Najib. She worked for the bank as an analyst for months, a person familiar with the matter said.
According to a LinkedIn page in her name, Ms Anis worked for Goldman as an investment banking analyst in Singapore from July to November 2010. Ms Anis could not immediately be reached for comment.
Goldman declined to comment. Neither the bank nor Mr Leissner is accused of wrongdoing.
Western banks have come under scrutiny for their hiring practices in other parts of Asia, notably China. The hiring of friends and relatives of Chinese officials is perceived as a way to win regulatory approval and business from state-owned enterprises.
Jarjis, a senior member of the ruling UMNO party and former Malaysian ambassador to the US, died in a helicopter crash last year. A key adviser and fixer for Mr Najib, his death was viewed as a blow to the prime minister. After his death, Mr Najib described Jarjis as a “friend of many years”.
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Mr Leissner was named chairman of the bank’s Southeast Asia division in 2014. He went on leave in January and resigned last month. His departure is connected with an unauthorised personal reference he wrote on behalf of another individual, according to people familiar with the matter.
The financier was central to Goldman’s involvement in capital raising for 1MDB. The US bank arranged three bond sales for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013, which raised $6.5bn.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a statement this week that it was “co-operating actively” with several jurisdictions over the 1MDB affair. The Singapore regulator said Mr Leissner was based in Singapore from 2002 to 2011 and moved to Hong Kong in November 2011.
The MAS said Mr Leissner “was not based in Singapore when his alleged involvement in the 1MDB deals took place”.
While Goldman said in July 2014 that Mr Leissner would be relocating back to Singapore, the city-state’s authorities said this relocation did not materialise.
The 1MDB affair has rocked Malaysia, with Mr Najib coming under pressure to explain $680m that flowed into his personal bank accounts. Mr Najib denies wrongdoing, saying the money was a political donation, while 1MDB denies its funds have been misappropriated.
The hiring of Ms Anis by Goldman was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Mr Leissner’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.