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Friday, June 29, 2018

Goldman Lunch at Taste Paradise Sets Table for 1MDB Money Probe

Low Taek Jho and an official from 1MDB had hired Goldman Sachs Group to underwrite the US$1.75 billion bond offering.

SINGAPORE: In a private dining room at Singapore's Taste Paradise restaurant, over a meal of abalone and suckling pig, two Goldman Sachs Group Inc bankers were explaining a US$1.75 billion bond offering to six executives of a Swiss bank.

It was early 2012, and joining Goldman bankers Roger Ng and Tim Leissner that day were a young Malaysian financier named Low Taek Jho and an official from state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd, known as 1MDB, which had hired the New York bank to underwrite the bond sale.

Now, people familiar with the matter say, investigators from Singapore to the United States are looking more closely at the roles of Mr Ng and Mr Leissner, who have both left Goldman. And they're asking what happened in that private dining room named after the first emperor of a unified China, Qin Shi Huang.

In particular, they're examining how US$577 million in proceeds from a bond sale that May ended up a day later in an account at BSI SA in Switzerland - the same bank whose executives were at the Taste Paradise.

Click here for the full report: Goldman Sachs lunch at Singapore's Taste Paradise set the scene for 1MDB's money probe

The lunch, previously unreported, brought together the key parties in what has become the biggest financial scandal in Malaysia's history, involving the alleged misappropriation of US$4.5 billion of 1MDB funds. It was the culmination of numerous conversations as BSI bankers and compliance officials sought clarity on the deal.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jack Ma Embraces Blockchain for Ant But Warns of Bitcoin Bubble

Billionaire Jack Ma has declared Bitcoin a potential bubble, reiterating his caution over the volatile crypto-currency as his Ant Financial on Monday launched blockchain-based money transfers between Hong Kong and the Philippines.

The founder and chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. extolled the possibilities of the decentralized ledger on which Bitcoin is based but warned that the digital currency itself may be driven by torrid speculation. Ma made his comments after officially launching a blockchain-based remittance service with Standard Chartered Plc and GCash, Ant’s venture with the Philippines’ Globe Telecom Inc.

Bitcoin set a 2018 low on Sunday before bouncing back a tad, underscoring the volatility that stems from increased scrutiny by regulators even as global central bankers and business chiefs raise questions about its viability.

“Blockchain technology could change our world more than people imagine,” Ma told reporters in the former British colony, home to a large population of Filipino workers and domestic helpers who send money home regularly. “Bitcoin however could be a bubble.”

Read more: Ant Financial Raises $14 Billion as Funding Round Closes

Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba’s backed by some of the biggest names in global finance and investment, has explored blockchain technology for years, including to clean up China’s murky charities. But the remittance service marks one of the first instances of the internet giant using the technology in mainstream finance.

On Monday, Ma also took potshots at the traditional banking industry, saying financial institutions were over-charging for overseas payments. Ant Financial, blocked from buying Moneygram International Inc., now wants to build something better and take blockchain-based remittances beyond just Hong Kong to the Philippines. He didn’t elaborate.

“Traditional financial institutions serve 20 percent of people and make 80 percent of profits. New financial institutions should service 80 percent of people, and make 20 percent of profit,” said Ma.

Read more: Jack Ma’s Too-Big-to-Fail Financial Giant Faces a Clampdown


Bitcoin Drops Back Below $6,000 as 2018 Loss Approaches 60%

Bitcoin briefly dropped back below the $6,000 threshold breached this past weekend, bringing the loss for 2018 to almost 60 percent.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market value traded as low as $5,988, and was down 2.2 percent to $6,044 as of 10:56 a.m. in New York. Bitcoin last traded at this level in February.

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