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Ex-Goldman Sachs banker convicted for role in $4 billion fraud


A former Goldman Sachs banker was sentenced on Friday on bribery and money laundering charges stemming from a global fraud scandal: the looting of more than $4 billion from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

A federal jury found former banker Roger Ng guilty after a nearly two-month trial in which the government’s key witness admitted to being a frequent liar. Even so, jurors found Mr. Ng guilty on all three counts after more than two days of deliberation. He faces up to 30 years in prison.

Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the scheme to steal the fund known as 1MDB was “massive in its scale” and “brazen in its execution”.

“Today’s verdict is a victory not only for the rule of law but also for the people of Malaysia who the fund was meant to help by raising money for projects aimed at developing their country’s economy” , Mr. Peace said. “The defendant and his cronies saw 1MDB not as an entity to do good for the Malaysian people but as a piggy bank to get rich.”

No date has been set for sentencing. Mr. Ng’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, was not immediately available for comment.

The trial, which began in mid-February in federal court in Brooklyn, will likely be the only criminal trial in the United States to stem from the scandal. The stolen billions have funded lavish lifestyles for powerful Malaysians – including the country’s former prime minister – and others, buying paintings by van Gogh and Monet, paying for luxury properties from London to Beverly Hills and helping to finance the Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street”. ”

Jho Low, a spendthrift Malaysian businessman and architect of the scheme, was charged along with Mr Ng, but he is a fugitive and is believed to be living in China. Tim Leissner, a former Goldman partner and star government witness in the trial, is expected to be sentenced in July; he pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering charges in 2018.

Mr Low is accused of pocketing nearly $1 billion in misappropriated funds from a series of bond issues Goldman arranged for the 1MDB fund. Mr. Leissner obtained more than $60 million in bribes and prosecutors said Mr. Ng received $35 million in illegal proceeds.

Federal prosecutors said others — including former prime minister Najib Razak and his family as well as officials in Abu Dhabi — received hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for endorsing Goldman in as the main underwriter of the bond agreements. Mr Najib was ousted from power and later found guilty by a Malaysian court and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

The trial was unusual almost from the start: Proceedings were delayed for days because federal prosecutors were slow to turn over potentially critical documents to the defense, which lawyers for Mr. Ng said hampered their ability to prepare their file and could constitute grounds for an appeal.

It also featured testimony from a star witness who admitted to being a prolific liar. Mr. Leissner, once a rising star at Goldman in Asia, was on the stand for 10 days, including six days of searing cross-examination. He was forced to admit that he initially lied to federal agents, his fellow Goldman partners and his girlfriends and wives, including model and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons. (The couple, who have two children, are separated.)

A lawyer for Mr. Ng told the jury during closing arguments that Mr. Leissner could not be trusted to tell the truth about anything, including his involvement in the kickback scheme and bribes. But prosecutors said Mr. Leissner was telling the truth about the crimes Mr. Ng was accused of, including a $35 million payment that authorities said was an illegal bribe.

Mr Ng’s wife, Hwee Bin Lim, testified that the $35 million she and her husband received was the proceeds of a $6 million investment she had made many years earlier with Mr. Leissner’s second wife, Judy Chan.

At the start of the trial, Mr. Agnifilo told Judge Margo K. Brodie, Chief Judge for the Eastern District of New York, that he was considering seeking a mistrial due to what he called a ” government misconduct” for failing to hand over tens of thousands of people. pages of Mr. Leissner’s emails until after the trial began. Prosecutors called the delay “inexcusable” and blamed it on a separate legal team to review the documents for possible legal privilege issues.

Mr Agnifilo has decided not to seek a mistrial, but legal experts have said the delays could be used to argue for a retrial on appeal.

The trial was an unusual example of a manager testifying against a subordinate. In high-profile corporate crime cases, key cooperating witnesses are often used to build cases against a company’s senior executives. But in Mr. Leissner’s case, his cooperation was used by federal prosecutors not only to prove the charges against Mr. Ng, but also to mount a criminal case against his former employer.

Mr. Leissner’s cooperation led Goldman Sachs’ Malaysian subsidiary to plead guilty to a single charge of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – the first instance of Goldman appearing before a US judge and admitting that he was guilty of a crime.

The bank agreed to pay $2.3 billion in fines to federal authorities and additional billions to authorities in other countries, including Malaysia. The bank itself also entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with US authorities.

Mr. Ng’s lawsuit did not shed much light on the actions of others at Goldman, but it did provide details about the strategies employed to conceal Mr. Low’s involvement in orchestrating the three bond deals. These transactions raised $6.5 billion for the fund and generated $600 million in fees for Goldman.

One of the three criminal charges Mr. Ng was convicted of involved conspiring to violate Goldman’s controls and procedures that are intended to deter the payment of bribes to foreign officials.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Mr. Ng and Mr. Leissner frequently communicated on personal email accounts, rather than their work accounts. They also said the pair deleted some emails after the scandal involving the 1MDB fund began to become public knowledge in Asia.

Mr. Leissner testified that he and Mr. Ng were willing to pay the bribes because they knew getting the bonds was a big win for Goldman and they would look like “heroes” in the process. interior of the bank.

As part of its plea agreement, Goldman accepted a statement of facts outlining a number of internal control lapses that authorities said should have detected wrongdoing by its former employees, as well as the involvement of Mr. Low in making deals.

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