US Prosecutor: Ex-Goldman Banker Cheated to Get Millions from 1MDB

From newswire reports
2022.02.14
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US Prosecutor: Ex-Goldman Banker Cheated to Get Millions from 1MDB Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo (left) and Roger Ng (also known as Ng Chong Hwa) arrive at a federal courthouse in New York for jury selection as Ng faces a criminal trial on charges linked to the misappropriation of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Feb. 8, 2022.
AP

A former Goldman Sachs banker charged with conspiring to misappropriate billions of dollars from a Malaysian state development fund was willing to cheat to get the money, a U.S. prosecutor said as Roger Ng went on trial in New York City on Monday.

During his own opening statement, a lawyer for the defendant (also known as Ng Chong Hwa) said his client was innocent of all charges related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as he targeted another ex-Goldman executive who had pleaded guilty to similar charges.

United States law enforcement officials accuse Ng, a Malaysian citizen, of being a key figure in an elaborate bribery, embezzlement and money-laundering scandal that crossed international borders and implicated Malaysia’s then-prime minister and brought down his government in 2018.

“He [Ng] saw an opportunity to make millions of dollars by cheating and he took it,” prosecutor Brent Wible told jurors at the U.S. federal courthouse in Brooklyn during the first day of the trial that could last several weeks, the Associated Press reported.

Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo admitted to jurors that many people did wrong in the 1MDB case – but not his client.

“Roger is 100 percent innocent,” Agnifilo said in his opening statement, according to the Reuters news service. “That’s not because of some technicality, that’s not because of some trick. ... This is a massive crime and there are lots of guilty people. He’s just not one of them.”

Agnifilo sought to focus the blame on another Goldman Sachs banker, Timothy Leissner, and Leissner’s link to fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (also known as Jho Low), Reuters reported.

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.

“The protector of Low all along was Leissner. It was never Roger,” Agnifilo said, according to Reuters. “Leissner uses people. You will see this time and time again. He is trying to use my client ... to serve his jail time.”

Ng received $35 million in kickbacks from Leissner, Wible, the prosecutor said, according to AP.

Leissner pleaded guilty in 2018 to two charges related to money laundering and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million (182.9 million ringgit).

He has not been sentenced and is expected to testify against Ng as part of a cooperation agreement to receive a lighter sentence, according to news reports from wire-services.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Ng, joined by Leissner, Low 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.

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

In what has been described as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times,” Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege that at least $4.5 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB, which Najib had established in 2009 to fund development programs in Malaysia.

Najib lost power when his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was defeated in the 2018 general election, where opponents made 1MDB a central campaign issue.

The new Pakatan Harapan government filed 42 criminal complaints against Najib, which led to his conviction and 12-year sentence in July 2020 on corruption-related charges linked to a 1MDB subsidiary. Najib is free on bail as he appeals that conviction while standing trial on charges specifically linked to 1MDB.

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