Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was convicted by a federal jury on Friday for his role in a $4 billion fraud described by prosecutors as being “massive in scale” and “brazen in its execution,” involving the looting of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
“Ng obtained lucrative business for his employer by bribing a dozen government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi,” Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, wrote in a statement.
“Obscene in Its Greed”
Between 2012 and 2013, Ng received more than $35 million in kickbacks for helping to seal and launder billions of dollars from the Malaysian investment development fund 1MDB, the jury found. Some of the money in the scheme was used for bribes.
Calling the scheme “obscene in its greed,” Peace called the verdict a “victory for not only the rule of law, but also for the people of Malaysia.”
Malaysian businessman Jho Low, whom authorities call the architect of the scheme, remains a fugitive and is believed to be living in China. Former Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy pleaded two years ago to illegally lobbying the Donald Trump administration for millions on Low’s behalf.
Tim Leissner, a former Goldman partner who pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering charges in 2018, is expected to be sentenced later this year. Leissner was the government’s star witness, and Ng’s attorney Marc Agnifilo reportedly attacked his credibility in order to defend his client.
Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, now a partner with the firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich, P.C., told Law&Crime that Agnifilo ably demonstrated that Leissner was a “thoroughly unlikable liar” and that the government did not live up to its discovery obligations.
“Despite all of that, the government was able to prevail because they built their case so that the jurors could consider Leissner’s lies and history of lying in all of the important, personal details of his life to be irrelevant,” Epner said in a phone interview.
“Greed Is Not Good”
Ng marks the first trial conviction in the 1MDB saga, notwithstanding the guilty pleas of Broidy, Leissner, and two other people tied to the scandal.
Prosecutors say that Ng conspired to circumvent Goldman Sach’s internal accounting controls so that the bank approved three bond deals critical to the scheme.
“Ng conspired with others to launder the proceeds through the United States financial system by purchasing, among other things, luxury real estate in New York City, valuable artwork, jewelry, and funding Hollywood films like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,'” U.S. Attorney Peace noted.
Prosecutors ultimately filed a forfeiture complaint about that Hollywood blockbuster, ultimately getting $60 million from the producers to the government in 2018.
“In another film made about Wall Street, not related to the criminal scheme in this case, a character infamously suggested that greed is good,” Peace said. “But, greed is not good, particularly when it leads to corruption and abuse, circumvention of corporate policies and controls, and the violation of federal law.”
In 2020, Goldman Sachs and its Malaysian subsidiary agreed to pay $2.9 billion to resolve a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case, to which the companies pleaded guilty. Epner, the former federal prosector, called that penalty one of the “largest fines in American jurisprudence.”
As of August 2021, more than $1 billion had been repatriated to the Malaysian government.
(Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
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