Corruption trial opens for ex-Goldman banker in 1MDB scandal | Business

0

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors told a jury Monday that a former Goldman Sachs executive pocketed $35 million in “secret kickbacks” in a multi-billion dollar ransack of a fund. Malaysian public investment fund, accusing the banker of playing a “crucial” role in the massive money laundering and corruption scheme.

Roger Ng also deleted personal email accounts to cover his tracks and “used his own wife and mother-in-law as a front to hide his identity,” federal prosecutor Brent Wible said at the opening of the long-running corruption trial. delayed in Brooklyn.

“He saw an opportunity to make millions of dollars by cheating,” Wible said, “and he took it.”

Ng’s own defense attorneys described the $4.5 billion looting of public investment fund 1MDB as “perhaps the biggest heist in world history.” But they argue that U.S. prosecutors scapegoated Ng for the “company-wide” failures at Goldman that enabled the colossal fraud.

“Roger is 100% innocent,” defense attorney Marc Agnifilo told the jury. “We are about to have a trial for an innocent man.”

Jurors have been urged by both sides to follow the money through a complex trial that is expected to last several weeks. Prosecutors say the paper trail implicates Ng in a sprawling web of lies, offshore accounts and front companies. They say Ng also conspired to launder stolen funds through the US financial system.

The embezzlement funded lavish spending on jewelry, art, superyacht and luxury real estate. The loot has even helped fund Hollywood movies, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

But Agnifilo said it was Ng who raised the first red flags about Low Taek Jho, the fugitive Malaysian financier and socialite known as Jho Low, accused of orchestrating the audacious scheme. Ng’s only role, he said, was to introduce Low to “much more involved” superiors at Goldman who escaped prosecution.

“In perhaps the most astonishing twist of the case, it was Roger Ng who, as early as March 2010, specifically warned his superiors at Goldman that Low was a politically exposed person, not to be trusted. Low and that Goldman should exercise caution in dealing with Low,” Agnifilo wrote in a court filing.

A former head of investment banking in Malaysia, Ng is the only Goldman banker to stand trial in the 1MDB scandal. The 49-year-old pleaded not guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to launder money and violating an anti-corruption law.

A message has been sent to Goldman Sachs seeking comment. A subsidiary of Goldman Sachs has “knowingly and willfully” admitted to conspiring to violate US anti-corruption laws, agreeing to pay more than $2.9 billion. The penalties included approximately $600 million in profits Goldman made from the 1MDB scandal. This is on top of the $3.9 billion Goldman paid to Malaysia.

Low, who maintains his innocence, has become well known in the New York and Los Angeles club scenes. In 2012, he threw a lavish 31st birthday party attended by DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities – a party described by The Wall Street Journal as the “craziest (Las) Vegas party ever”.

Bond sales organized by Goldman Sachs for investment fund 1MDB have allowed associates of Najib Razak, the former Malaysian prime minister, to steal and launder billions over several years.

Najib created 1MDB when he took power in 2009, ostensibly to accelerate Malaysia’s economic development. But the fund racked up billions in debt and, in 2018, finally brought down its government. In 2020, he was found guilty in Malaysia of abuse of power and other charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Another former Goldman banker, Tim Leissner, pleaded guilty in 2018 for paying millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. He was ordered to give up $43.7 million as part of his guilty plea and is expected to testify against Ng.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Share.

Comments are closed.