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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Ex-Goldman banker convicted in 1MDB corruption case

Ex-Goldman banker convicted in 1MDB corruption case

Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was convicted by a U.S. jury on Friday of conspiring to violate an anti-corruption law to help loot hundreds of millions of dollars from Malaysia's 1MDB development fund.

Prosecutors say Roger Ng, Goldman's former top investment banker for Malaysia, helped his former boss Tim Leissner embezzle money from the fund -- which was founded to pursue development projects in the Southeast Asian country -- launder the proceeds and bribe officials to win business for Goldman.

Ng, 49, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating an anti-corruption law. His lawyers say Leissner, who pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2018 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors' investigation, falsely implicated Ng in the hopes of receiving a lenient sentence.

The jury convicted Ng of two counts of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Deliberations began on Tuesday after a nearly two-month trial in federal court in Brooklyn.

The charges stemmed from one of the biggest financial scandals in history.

Prosecutors have said Goldman helped 1MDB raise $6.5 billion through three bond sales, but that $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. Goldman (GS) in 2020 paid a nearly $3 billion fine and its Malaysian unit agreed to plead guilty.

Jurors heard nine days of testimony from Leissner, who said he sent Ng $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, Hwee Bin Lim, later testified for the defense that the business venture was, in fact, legitimate. She said she invested $6 million in the mid-2000s in a Chinese company owned by the family of Leissner's then-wife, Judy Chan, and that the $35 million was her return on that investment.

Ng's lawyer, Marc 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.

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