PETALING JAYA: Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was convicted by a US jury today of conspiring to violate an anti-corruption law to help loot hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB.
The verdict was announced this morning in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, wire services reported.
Ng is the only Goldman Sachs Group banker to go on trial in the global fraud. He is accused of taking US$35.1 million in kickbacks to help Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) steal US$2.7 billion from 1MDB.
Over the course of an eight-week trial in federal court, Ng’s defence argued that the funds were for a separate, legitimate business transaction.
Ng, 49, was charged with three counts of conspiracy and faces as long as 30 years in prison if he is convicted on all of them.
The scandal saw Goldman pay more than US$5 billion in global fines, including more than US$2.9 billion to the US Justice Department. A unit of the firm admitted it conspired to violate anti-bribery laws, in Goldman’s first guilty plea since the bank was founded in 1869.
1MDB was founded to pursue development projects in Malaysia.
The jury convicted Ng of two counts of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) through bribery and circumvention of Goldman’s internal accounting controls, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Today’s verdict is a victory for not only the rule of law, but also for the people of Malaysia,” Breon Peace, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “The defendant and his cronies saw 1MDB not as an entity to do good for the people of Malaysia, but as a piggy bank to enrich themselves.”
Ng, wearing a black suit jacket and black tie, showed little emotion as the jury’s foreman read out the verdict. Ng glanced back and forth between the jury and the desk he was seated at. His lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, hung his head after the guilty verdict to the first count was read.
US District Judge Margo Brodie, who is overseeing the case, ordered that Ng be subject to a curfew pending sentencing, but said she did not consider him a flight risk.
Meanwhile, Agnifilo said Ng may appeal, depending on the outcome of his post-trial motions and his sentence.
He stood by his decision to convince Ng to waive extradition to face trial, saying he had a better chance of a fair trial in the United States than in Malaysia, Reuters reported.
“These big cases are tough and they’re hard to win,” Agnifilo told reporters.
Prosecutors have said Goldman helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion through three bond sales, but that US$4.5 billion was diverted to government officials, bankers and their associates through bribes and kickbacks between 2009 and 2015.
Ng is the first, and likely only, person to face trial in the United States over the scheme.
Jurors heard nine days of testimony from former Goldman Sachs Group Southeast Asia chairman Tim Leissner, who said he sent Ng US$35 million in kickbacks. Leissner said the men agreed to tell banks a “cover story” that the money was from a legitimate business venture between their wives.
Ng’s wife, Lim Hwee Bin, later testified for the defence that the business venture was, in fact, legitimate. She said she invested US$6 million in the mid-2000s in a Chinese company owned by the family of Leissner’s then-wife, Judy Chan, and that the US$35 million was her return on that investment.
Agnifilo said in his closing argument on Monday that Leissner could not be trusted. Alixandra Smith, a prosecutor, said in her summation that Leissner’s testimony was backed up by other evidence.
Jho Low, a Malaysian financier and suspected mastermind of the scheme, was indicted alongside Ng in 2018 but remains at large.