Malaysian Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker Found Guilty in 1MDB Corruption Scandal

Malaysian Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker Found Guilty in 1MDB Corruption Scandal
Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng (C) arrives for his criminal trial, at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, on Feb. 22, 2022. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
Aldgra Fredly

A U.S. federal jury on April 8 found a former Malaysian Goldman Sachs banker guilty of bribery and conspiracy to launder billions of dollars embezzled from Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Roger Ng, 49, was convicted of all three counts in the case, including conspiring to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws through bribery and circumvention of Goldman’s internal accounting controls, as well as conspiring to launder money.

The Malaysian citizen is the only former Goldman Sachs employee on trial in the United States for the 1MDB corruption scandal. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

“Today’s verdict is a resounding victory for justice and for the people of Malaysia who were the victims of this massive scheme that the defendant and his partners in crime carried out in a frenzy of greed to get rich by stealing millions of dollars from the 1MDB,” U.S. attorney Breon Peace said.

Ng, former managing director of Goldman Sachs, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Over the eight-week federal trial, his lawyers argued that the funds were used for a legitimate business transaction.

His lawyer, Marc Agnifilio, said that Ng may appeal, depending on the outcome of his post-trial motions and sentence.

Agnifilio planned to convince Ng to waive extradition to face trial, saying that he would have a better chance of a fair trial in the United States than in Malaysia.

According to the indictment, Ng, his former boss Tim Leissner, and fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho conspired to misappropriate more than $2.7 billion from 1MDB.

The money was used for personal benefits and to bribe Malaysian and Abu Dhabi government officials to obtain lucrative business, which resulted in Goldman Sachs earning around $600 million in revenues.

They also conspired to launder the embezzled money through the U.S. financial system by funding major Hollywood films such as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and purchasing luxury residential real estate and artwork, among other things.

Ng received $35 million for his role in the bribery and money laundering scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice statement.

Leissner had pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2018 and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million. He testified that they agreed to tell banks a “cover story” that the $35 million was from a legitimate business venture between their wives.

Ng’s wife, Hwee Bin Lim, later testified that the business venture was legitimate and that she invested $6 million in the mid-2000s in a Chinese company owned by the family of Leissner’s then-wife, Judy Chan, and received $35 million in return.

Agnifilio said in his closing argument that Leissner could not be trusted, claiming that Leissner falsely implicated Ng to obtain a lenient sentence. But the prosecutor said that Leissner’s testimony was backed up by other evidence.

 Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug. 8, 2018. (Lai Seng Sin/Reuters)
Malaysia's former Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives in court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug. 8, 2018. (Lai Seng Sin/Reuters)

1MDB is a Malaysian wealth fund established by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to fund economic development projects.

U.S. investigators alleged that at least $4.5 billion had been stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s cronies, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

Najib was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined RM210 million ($50 million) in July 2020 after being found guilty of transferring RM42 million ($9.9 million) from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB, into his bank accounts.

Low, who was suspected mastermind of the scheme, has maintained his innocence and remains at large. Malaysian authorities have revoked his passport, issued an arrest demand, and applied for an Interpol red alert against him.

Goldman Sachs in 2020 agreed to pay more than $2.9 billion in penalties, including $600 million in profit from the 1MDB scandal.
Reuters contributed to this report.