Ex-Goldman Banker Says Ex-Astro CEO Blackmailed Him Into Buying RM42M Home With 1MDB Money

Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd's former chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Rohana Rozhan allegedly knew about the 1MDB scandal two years ahead of the exposé.

Cover image via Bloomberg & KiniTular

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Former Goldman Sachs Group partner Tim Leissner revealed yesterday, 23 February, that he had spent about RM41.8 million to shut the mouth of a Malaysian from exposing the 1MDB scandal back in 2013

The bank's former Southeast Asia operation chief dropped the bombshell during the 1MDB trial at the US Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday while he testified against his former colleague Roger Ng, who is a Malaysian.

Ng is the bank's former head of investment banking in Malaysia, and to date, he is the only Goldman Sachs banker to have claimed trial in the 1MDB case in the US, reported Malay Mail.

Leissner is the US government's star witness in the 1MDB case, as he has collaborated with the authorities for a lighter sentence after pleading guilty in the case and forfeiting USD43 million (about RM180 million).

Bloomberg reported that Leissner was blackmailed by Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd's former chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Rohana Rozhan into buying her a USD10 million (about RM41.8 million) house in London, UK.

According to Leissner, Rohana threatened to expose his involvement with 1MDB.

Goldman Sachs' former former head of investment banking in Malaysia, Roger Ng.

Image via Wes Bruer/Bloomberg

"Ms Rozhan was very upset that I was ending our relationship to be with my future wife, with Kimora," Leissner testified, referring to his model wife, Kimora Lee Simmons

"If I didn't buy her a house, she would tell the authorities about my involvement in the 1MDB scandal. She was threatening to expose me. At the time, 2013, I was very fearful of that."

Leissner told the court that he brought the issue up to his then-boss, former Asia head Richard Gnodde, about Rozhan's demand.

He said it was a sensitive issue as Goldman Sachs had business dealings with Astro Malaysia.

Gnodde, who now runs the bank's international business, told Leissner to "be careful about relationships with clients", reported Bloomberg.

Astro Malaysia's former CEO Datuk Rohana Rozhan.

Image via New Straits Times

Despite the warning, Leissner continued dating Rozhan for another 10 years

"Pretty much everybody in our Southeast Asia territory knew it," he said.

Leissner married his TV personality wife in 2013.

In earlier proceedings, Ng's defence lawyer Marc Agnifilo told jurors that the witness is a "double bigamist", a person who commits the crime of marrying someone when they are already legally married to someone else.

Agnifilo claimed that Leissner committed the offence "twice" in his lifetime.

Tim Leissner with his wife Kimora Lee Simmons.

Image via AFP via Malay Mail

Rohana resigned from Astro Malaysia's top post in February 2019, reported New Straits Times.

At that time, her resignation was said to have no relation to any allegations of data leak or political reasons.

If Leissner's testimony was true, it would mean that Rohana had known about the 1MDB scandal two years earlier than the public, as the scandal involving the sovereign investment company was not exposed until 2015.

Bloomberg has reached out to Astro Malaysia for a comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Rohana announced that she would be resigning as Astro Malaysia CEO about a month after Pakatan Harapan came into power.

At that time, there was an exodus of CEOs in Malaysia:

Meanwhile, former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak is currently facing 21 money laundering charges in the 1MDB case in Malaysia:

Learn more about the 1MDB case here: