Ex-Goldman banker took millions in 1MDB-related bribes – prosecutor

“The defendant (Roger Ng) saw an opportunity to make millions of dollars by cheating, and he took it,” a lawyer for the US Department of Justice told the court.

NEW YORK, United States – Prosecutors charged a former Goldman Sachs banker with seeking to make millions of dollars by laundering money stolen from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB on Monday, Feb. 14, at the start of a trial which could shed light on the bank’s response to corruption warnings.

Roger Ng, a former head of investment banking at Goldman in Malaysia, is charged with conspiracy to launder money and breaching an anti-corruption law.

“The defendant saw an opportunity to make millions of dollars by cheating, and he took it,” Brent Wible, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice, said in an opening statement Monday.

Ng pleaded not guilty and his attorney said he was a “bad guy” for one of the biggest financial scandals in Wall Street history.

The trial in federal court in Brooklyn could last up to six weeks.

The scandal stems from some $6.5 billion in bonds that Goldman helped 1MDB, launched by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to boost economic growth, sell from 2009 to 2014.

US prosecutors say Goldman earned $600 million in fees from the deals, but about $4.5 billion of the funds raised were misappropriated.

In 2020, the bank paid a $2.3 billion fine, returned $600 million in ill-gotten gains and agreed to have its Malaysian subsidiary plead guilty in a US court under a settlement, known as the name deferred prosecution agreement.

Wible said Ng helped two co-conspirators – his former boss, Timothy Leissner, and Malaysian middleman Jho Low – launder misappropriated funds from 1MDB and used some of the stolen money to bribe officials in the country. Southeast Asia in order to win business for Goldman.

Ng received $35 million in kickbacks from Leissner, Wible said.

Leissner, a former Goldman Sachs partner in Asia, pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in part by helping to pay $1.6 billion in bribes. He is expected to testify as a government witness against Ng.

Wible said Leissner, who has not yet been convicted, would testify against Ng as part of a cooperative agreement with prosecutors and, therefore, get a lighter sentence. But Wible said Leissner’s testimony would be supported by other evidence.

EXPLAINER: What charges does ex-Goldman banker Ng face in the 1MDB corruption trial?

Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo countered that Ng played no role in the scheme perpetrated by Low and Leissner, and that he even warned Goldman management not to trust Low. He said the funds that prosecutors called kickbacks actually belonged to Ng’s wife and came from a business venture she had with Leissner’s ex-wife.

Agnifilo focused his opening statement largely on undermining Leissner, who is expected to testify for the government.

“They are not accomplices. There is a chasm between these two men a mile wide,” he said. “Leissner uses people. You will see this over and over again. He’s trying to use my client… to serve his prison sentence.

Low, who was charged alongside Ng in 2018, has not been arrested by US or Malaysian authorities. Malaysia said he was in China, which Beijing denied. – Rappler.com

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