Sunday 01 Oct 2023
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 28, 2022 - April 3, 2022

WITH so much money at their disposal — and nobody to account to — fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) and his partners in crime used the surplus funds to make even more money trading in commodities.

Even as they were defrauding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) in 2012 — in the US$1.75 billion “Project Magnolia” bond deal together with Goldman Sachs executives — they were simultaneously using funds siphoned from 1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd to trade commodities under a scheme they code named “Odassai Index”.

Testifying in New York at the trial of former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng Chong Hwa, FBI agent Ryan Collins shed some light on the Odassai trades based on email exchanges between Ng, Jho Low and former 1MDB deputy chief financial officer Terence Geh Choh Heng. Odassai was spearheaded by Ng.

Ng, the only Goldman Sachs banker to go to trial in the 1MDB scandal, is accused of plotting with his former boss, Tim Leissner, and Jho Low to pull off a fraud in which billions of dollars were siphoned from the sovereign wealth fund.

In excerpts of email exchanges admitted in court, Ng had purportedly sent a draft memo to Geh on Feb 24, 2012, detailing plans for the project to trade commodities from looted 1MDB and SRC funds under the guise of Goldman Sachs acting on behalf of SRC in the trades.

Two days later on Feb 26, Geh responded to Ng saying: “We have green light”, adding that they will “work around 50 million as the 9% option amount… ”

According to the email exchanges brought up in court, Jho Low was then roped into the deal on May 4, 2012 by Geh as he scrambled to tell Jho Low that they needed US$16 million to fund the trade from BSI bank accounts in Switzerland that the latter controlled, as the settlement for the deal was the next day.

“Need to fund GS (Goldman Sachs) trade 16 million US dollars, BSI got money, can use first or not? Settlement tomorrow,” read the email from Geh to Jho Low.

Jho Low replied that the settlement can be delayed.

In pressing for the settlement amount, Geh assured Jho Low that should the BSI account not have sufficient funds, he can transfer money to the account without Bank Negara Malaysia approval.

“Do you have any concern BSI have sufficient balance. I can also send the money across without BNM approval. If you have any concern let me know, let me assist, Roger and Tim are nervous. Let me hear your tots [sic],” the email read.

From the emails, it was clear that Geh was afraid that SRC would default in the deal and that Leissner and Ng were also afraid it would collapse because payments had not been made.

In the same email thread, Jho Low is warned by Ng and Geh again about the funds for settlement: “FYI from Roger, Terry, the Odassai we traded last week is settling today. Wanted to make sure you have funds to settle. Very important as we also have IPIC underwriting, et cetera. Trade is up 124, from where we traded 122.5.”

Geh reminded Jho Low that “SRC cannot default” as it is not good for Goldman Sachs and SRC.

Another email exchange showed Jho Low getting irate at Ng as his question over the redemption period on the trading was not answered. He also warned Geh to not tell anyone that the account is “offshore” although from the transcript it is unclear what account he is referring to.

“Next time please tell Roger to make clear please… Never tell people it’s offshore,” Jho Low warned.

Jho Low then warned Geh about the trade, saying: “He [Ng] better damn well make sure it makes money.”

Geh replied that Ng did make money from the trade: “He did actually, but that’s not important anymore. It is in the money now.”

It is not known how much was made in the trade or how much was lost as Collins was only going through email exchanges between the men and did not testify about actual amounts.

Finally, in May 2012, an email exchange between Ng and BSI-Singapore showed that the funds from SRC were being transferred “for value”. BSI responded that the said funds will be paid “for value” and attached in the email was a SWIFT code for the payment that was made.


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