Trial Begins in US Case Against Ex-Goldman Banker in 1MDB Scandal

Nani Yusof and Shailaja Neelakantan
2022.02.07
Washington
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Trial Begins in US Case Against Ex-Goldman Banker in 1MDB Scandal Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng leaves the federal court in New York, May 6, 2019.
[Reuters]

After nearly three years, the U.S. trial of a former Goldman Sachs banker implicated in the embezzlement of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign 1MDB fund opened in a New York federal court Monday.

The trial at a courthouse in Brooklyn began with jury selection in the case against the banker, Malaysian national Ng Chong Hwa (also known as Roger Ng), who is charged with three counts of bribery and money laundering related to the securing of business for Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse.

“Currently we are doing jury selection,” a court reporter assigned to the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York told BenarNews via email.

The U.S. indictments alleged that Roger Ng, his former Goldman colleague Tim Leissner, fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (also known as Jho Low), and others conspired to misappropriate more than $2.7 billion (11.28 billion ringgit) from the fund known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The U.S. has also charged Ng with conspiring to violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to multiple government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, and conspiring to circumvent the internal accounting controls of Goldman Sachs, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement in 2019.

Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege that at least $4.5 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB, which then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had established in 2009 to fund development programs in Malaysia. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) described 1MDB as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”

In July 2020, a Malaysian court found Najib guilty of money laundering, abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and other charges, and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. An appeals court upheld the sentence, which is now being appealed in Malaysia’s highest court.

Ng, who faces 30 years in prison, was arrested in Malaysia in November 2018 and extradited to the U.S. six months later.

Upon his arrival in the U.S., Ng pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in May 2019, but he had to furnish a U.S. $20 million bond, $1 million of which he secured by a cash deposit. Conditions of his bail included “home detention with electronic monitoring,” with travel restricted to the eastern and southern federal districts of New York.

Opening statements in the trial are set to begin on Feb. 14, according to the Reuters news agency.

Ng’s erstwhile colleague Leissner, who had pleaded guilty to the charges and was ordered to forfeit U.S. $43.7 million, is scheduled to be sentenced next month, Reuters said.

In October 2020, Goldman Sachs and its Malaysian subsidiary agreed to pay Malaysia more than U.S. $2.9 billion after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

U.S. Department of Justice officials said Goldman Sachs paid more than $1 billion in bribes to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials and, in return, had a role in underwriting about $6.5 billion in three bond deals for 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

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