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The Story of Malaysia’s 1MDB, the Scandal That Shook the World of Finance

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Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund, 1MDB, was supposed to attract foreign investment. Instead, it has spurred criminal and regulatory investigations around the world that have cast an unflattering spotlight on financial deal-making, election spending and political patronage under former Prime Minister Najib Razak. The figures are mind-boggling: A Malaysian parliamentary committee identified at least $4.2 billion in irregular transactions related to 1MDB. In May, Najib was ousted from power in a general election as the scandal fueled a voter backlash that ended his party’s 61 years of rule. As the investigations continue, Najib faces trial on corruption charges and U.S. prosecutors implicated at least three senior Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bankers in a multiyear criminal enterprise, one of whom admitted bribery. Malaysia has also filed criminal charges against the U.S. bank.

It’s a government investment company -- full name, 1Malaysia Development Bhd. -- that took shape in 2009 under Najib, who went on to lead its advisory board. Its early initiatives included buying privately owned power plants and planning a new financial district in Kuala Lumpur. The fund proved better at borrowing -- it accumulated $12 billion in debt -- than at luring large-scale investment.