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Former Goldman Sachs executive Roger Ng has been found guilty of helping to steal billions of dollars from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB after a lengthy lawsuit by US prosecutors, who described the fraud as one of the greatest financial scandals in history and which hoped to show that individuals are still at the center of corporate wrongdoing.

A New York jury found Ng, 49, once Goldman’s top investment banker in Malaysia, guilty of helping his former boss Tim Leissner divert development money to benefit Malaysia’s poor in from a fund linked to then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and then laundering the proceeds while bribing officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

Ng had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and money laundering under US foreign anti-corruption laws. Ng’s lawyers had claimed that Leissner, a cooperating government witness who pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2018, had falsely implicated him.

The charges against the two men stemmed from a scheme in which Goldman helped 1MDB raise $6.5 billion through three bond sales. But $4.5 billion was diverted to government officials, bankers and their associates between 2009 and 2015.

The funds were used, in part, to finance the lavish lifestyle of fugitive Malaysian playboy Jho Low, who embarked on a mind-boggling spending spree, including luxury apartments, yachts, impressionist artwork and film projects, including Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. .

Ng is the first and likely the only person to stand trial in the United States for this scheme. Goldman in 2020 paid nearly $3 billion in fines and its Malaysian unit agreed to plead guilty.

During the trial, Leissner testified for nine days as defense attorneys questioned his credibility and drew attention to claims he was married to two different women when he married Kimora Lee Simmons, the model, reality TV star and creator of Baby Phat, in 2014.

“Tim Leissner is using people,” Ng’s defense attorney Marc Agnifilo told jurors last month. He was “married to two different women at the same time, twice” and had an “illicit” relationship with another, Agnifilo said in his opening statements. Agnifilo said in his closing arguments that Leissner could not be trusted.

But jurors rejected that argument and sided with prosecutors.

The verdict represents a victory for the US Department of Justice, which sought to hold individuals accountable for crimes committed under the cover of a corporation, in this case Goldman Sachs.

These principles were set out in a 2015 memorandum by Assistant United States Attorney General Sally Yates, who said that “a society acts only through individuals, investigating the conduct of individuals is the most efficient and effective way to determine the facts and extent of any corporate misconduct”.

The memo was updated in 2020 with a set of principles, according to which individual accountability “deters future unlawful activity, incentivizes changes in corporate behavior, ensures that the appropriate parties are held accountable for their actions, and promotes public confidence in our judicial system”. .

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