Updated at 9:33 a.m. ET on 2019-05-07
U.S. authorities placed an ex-Goldman Sachs banker under house arrest after he was ordered released on a $1-million cash bail Monday following his extradition from Malaysia to face charges related to embezzling billions of dollars from state investment fund 1MDB, an American Department of Justice (DOJ) official said.
Malaysian national Roger Ng entered a not guilty plea and was granted bail ahead of his trial after he appeared in a federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nicole Navas, a DOJ spokeswoman, told BenarNews.
“Ng was arraigned on the indictment this afternoon before a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York,” Navas said.
“The magistrate judge set Ng’s bail conditions to: $20 million bond, $1 million of which was secured by a cash deposit,” she said, adding that the conditions of his bail included “home detention with electronic monitoring.”
As part of his temporary release, Ng, whose real name is Ng Chong Hwa, will be under constant electronic monitoring, Navas said, noting that the Malaysian’s travel would be restricted to the eastern and southern federal districts of New York.
Ng’s next court appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. on May 23, she said.
Special Malaysian-US arrangement
Ng arrived in New York early Monday after DOJ and Malaysian officials announced his extradition separately.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas earlier told reporters that consultations were held between the two countries before forging an agreement for Ng to be sent to the United States for 10 months, in a rare move that would allow him to first face criminal charges in America.
“This is to enable him to be prosecuted in the U.S. first,” Thomas said in a statement released Monday evening.
Ng, who was flown from Kuala Lumpur over the weekend, will also face charges of conspiring to violate to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to multiple government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, and conspiring to circumvent the internal accounting controls of Goldman Sachs, the U.S. DOJ said in a statement.
Ng’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, debunked reports on Monday that he was engaged in talks for a plea deal with prosecutors.
“We are not in active plea negotiations,” he told Bloomberg Monday, although he added that his client would “consider all options available to every defendant.”
In a three-count indictment unsealed last year, Ng was charged with crimes he allegedly committed while employed as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, which arranged three bond sales that raised more than U.S. $6 billion in bonds for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013. He was employed at the New York-headquartered financial institution until 2014.
U.S. prosecutors alleged that high-level 1MDB officials and their associates had embezzled U.S. $4.5 billion from the Malaysian state fund during a five-year period starting in 2009, using the money to buy real estate in California and New York, artwork by Picasso and Monet, a luxury yacht and jewelry.
The scandal led to the ouster of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government last year. Najib, who founded 1MDB, is also facing 42 criminal charges related to the 1MDB looting. He has pleaded not guilty.
“As part of the scheme, Ng and others conspired to bribe government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to obtain and retain lucrative business,” the U.S. DOJ said Monday. “They further conspired to launder the proceeds of their criminal conduct through the U.S. financial system.”
Ng was arrested in Malaysia on Nov. 1, 2018, upon U.S. request, and later waived extradition to the United States, the DOJ statement said, adding that he was scheduled to make his first appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo in Brooklyn.
Ng is one of the two ex-Goldman bankers charged by U.S. prosecutors. If convicted on the three charges, he faces up to 30 years in prison, according to DOJ officials.
On June 7, 2018, the DOJ also filed conspiracy charges against Tim Leissner, Goldman Sachs’ former Southeast Asia chairman, alleging he had violated anti-bribery and money laundering laws. On the same date, Leissner pleaded guilty to the charges and has been ordered to forfeit U.S. $43.7 million.
Leissner, who faces up to 10 years in prison, is free on bail and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Malaysian minister signs surrender warrant
In an about-face on April 25, Malaysian Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signed Ng’s “temporary surrender warrant,” Thomas said.
“Roger Ng was temporarily surrendered to the U.S. on 3rd May 2019, and shall be returned to Malaysia to face our charges as soon as the proceedings in the U.S. are concluded,” the Malaysian government’s top prosecutor said in his statement.
The temporary extradition may be extended upon mutual agreement by the two countries, Thomas said, without elaborating.
Legal proceedings against Ng in the United States had been delayed mainly because Muhyiddin said the former banker should first face criminal charges in Malaysia, where he faces four charges of helping the bank provide misleading information during the 1MDB bond sales. He has pleaded not guilty.
In its lawsuits announced in November 2018, the U.S. DOJ alleged that Ng and Malaysian fugitive Low Taek Jho – who is better known as Jho Low – had misappropriated billions of dollars from 1MDB, Malaysia’s investment arm established in 2009 ostensibly to fund the country’s development program. Prosecutors said the duo and other conspirators laundered the money through complex financial transactions.
In Sydney, an Australian public relations firm that represents Jho Low issued a statement late Monday about Ng’s extradition. Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs accused the Malaysian government of “attempting to tout its cooperation with the U.S. when it shares no common ground on basic human and legal rights.”
“While Malaysia agreed to the transfer when Mr. Ng first waived extradition in February, the regime’s leaders then back-tracked and invented the concept of a ‘fast track trial,’ Benjamin Haslem, co-CEO of the firm, said in a statement emailed to BenarNews.
“Unsurprisingly this failed when the politically motivated Government focused all its efforts persecuting its predecessors with show trials and abusive use of arrest warrants. It is good that Mr. Ng has been rescued from Malaysia’s inhumane prison conditions and a process controlled by a leader with a history of abusing the judicial system to destroy political opponents,” Haslem added.
He was referring to the 1-year-old government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had previously served as PM for 22 years.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said that Goldman Sachs had received about U.S. $600 million in fees after it raised more than U.S. $6 billion in the bond offerings on 1MDB’s behalf. Malaysian authorities had earlier said the government was seeking up to U.S. $7.7 billion in reparations from Goldman Sachs over the 1MDB scandal.
“We continue to cooperate with all relevant authorities as the process continues to move forward,” Michael DuVally, a Goldman spokesman, said in a statement released Monday.