Ex-Goldman banker found guilty in scheme to steal billions from Malaysia’s 1MDB

BenarNews staff and from newswire reports
2022.04.08
Washington and New York
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Ex-Goldman banker found guilty in scheme to steal billions from Malaysia’s 1MDB Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, leave the federal court in New York, May 6, 2019.
Reuters

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET on 2022-04-08

A U.S. jury on Friday found a former Goldman Sachs banker guilty of all charges tied to a scheme to steal billions from 1MDB, a state sovereign wealth fund at the heart of an international financial scandal that brought down a Malaysian government.

The jury, which began deliberations on Tuesday at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y, returned the verdict before noon on Friday against Malaysian citizen Roger Ng, who was extradited from his home country to stand trial in the United States.

“Today’s verdict is a victory for not only the rule of law, but also for the people of Malaysia for whom the fund was supposed to help, by raising money for projects to develop their country’s economy,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

“The defendant and his cronies saw 1MDB not as an entity to do good for the people of Malaysia, but as a piggy bank to enrich themselves with piles of money siphoned from the fund.”

Meanwhile, defense attorney Marc Agnifilo said he was surprised by the verdict and questioned the reliability of the evidence, the Associated Press reported.

Ng “is doing better than his lawyers,” Agnifilo said told reporters after the verdict. “He has great fortitude.”

The verdict came nearly two months after Ng’s trial opened with prosecutors saying then that he was willing to cheat the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, while his attorneys said that he was being targeted by another ex-Goldman executive who had pleaded guilty to similar charges.

That executive, Timothy Leissner, pleaded guilty in 2018 to two charges related to money laundering and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million (184 million ringgit).

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Ng, joined by Leissner, fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low (whose real name is Low Taek Jho) and others, conspired to steal more than U.S. $2.7 billion (11.3 billion ringgit) from 1MDB.

It also charged Ng with conspiring to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, and conspiring to circumvent Goldman Sachs accounting controls, according to court documents.

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The 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) logo is seen on a billboard at the fund’s flagship Tun Razak Exchange, under construction at a site in Kuala Lumpur, July 3, 2015. [AFP]

In October 2020, Goldman Sachs and its Malaysian subsidiary agreed to pay the Malaysian government more than $2.9 billion (12.2 billion ringgit) after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.

Taking the stand for several days, Leissner testified that he, along with Ng and Low, used off-shore accounts and shell companies to “disguise the flow of funds,” AP reported. “If we told any bank the truth, it wouldn’t work. … The house of cards would have fallen down,” he said.

The subject of an international manhunt, Low faces criminal charges in Malaysia and the U.S. for his role in allegedly embezzling billions of dollars from 1MDB through his relationship with former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In their closing statement earlier this week, prosecutors said Ng helped Leissner embezzle millions of dollars from 1MDB. The defense countered that Leissner’s testimony could not be trusted, noting he admitted that “he lied a lot,” according to news service reports.

Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege that at least $4.5 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB in what they described as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.” Najib, the former prime minister who faces criminal charges in Malaysia, had established 1MDB in 2009 to fund development programs in Malaysia.

Najib is appealing his 12-year sentence following his conviction on corruption-related charges linked to SRC International, a subsidiary of the development fund, and is standing trial on similar charges related to 1MDB.

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