Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker Convicted in $4.5B Corruption Scheme

NEW YORK (AP) — A former Goldman Sachs banker was convicted on Friday on bribery and other corruption charges accusing him of participating in a $4.5 billion scheme to ransack the Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MDB.

The jury in the U.S. case against Roger Ng was able to reach a verdict in Brooklyn federal court. The jury heard almost two months’ worth of evidence regarding tens to millions in kickbacks and bribes that were allegedly orchestrated and coordinated by Low Taek Jho (also known as Jho Low), a Malaysian financier.

This embezzlement enabled lavish spending on jewelry, art and luxurious real estate. The spoils even helped finance wild parties and Hollywood movies, including the 2013 Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street” that starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ng, a former Malaysian head of investment banking, is the Goldman banker who will be tried in connection with the 1MDB scam. The 49-year-old had pleaded not guilty to three counts — conspiring to launder money and violating two anti-bribery laws.

Prosecutors alleged that Ng and other Goldman Sachs bankers helped 1MDB raise $6.5 billion through bond sales — only to divert $4.5 billion of it to themselves and their co-conspirators through bribes and kickbacks.

“The harm to the people of Malaysia is immeasurable,” prosecutor Alixandra Smith said during closing arguments. “It is deeply unfair to everyone else who plays by the rules.”

Ng’s defense attorneys have described the looting of 1MDB state investment fund as “perhaps the single largest heist in the history of the world.” But they contend U.S. prosecutors scapegoated Ng for crimes committed by others, including the government’s star witness, Tim Leissner.

“Roger is basically the fall guy for this whole thing,” attorney Marc Agnifilo said. “And Tim Leissner is looking to close the biggest deal of his life.”

Agnifilo claimed that Leissner (a Goldman banker of higher rank) falsely accused Ng while he sought leniency for his criminal case.

Leissner “never stopped lying ever, and he didn’t stop lying in this courtroom,” Agnifilo said.

During several days on the witness stand, Leissner testified that he, Ng and Low used offshore accounts and shell companies to “disguise the flow of funds.” The money laundering efforts also involved drawing up fake contracts with banks, he said.

“If we told any bank the truth, it wouldn’t work,” he said. “The house of cards would have fallen down.”

Low also told him about a London dinner where he informed Ng and Ng that they were receiving kickbacks. Leissner said he knew that would be illegal, but didn’t care because if the deal went through he would be “a hero” at Goldman Sachs.

Ng, he added, was “particularly glad he was going to be paid some money” because he felt the firm had undercompensated him over the years.

The defense claimed that some of the $35 million Ng received through Leissner — money prosecutors said were illicit proceeds from the scheme — was actually the proceeds of a legitimate business transaction between the two men’s wives.

On cross-examination, Ng’s attorney sought to attack Leissner’s credibility by peppering him with questions about his history of lying about his marital status. Kimora Lee Simmons (his now estranged wife) said that Leissner forged documents in 2014 so that she believed he was divorcing. Simmons is an ex-wife to Russell Simmons.

Leissner (52) pleaded guilty last year to paying millions in bribes for government officials in Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi. In exchange for his guilty plea, Leissner was forced to forfeit $43.7million. He also agreed to testify against Ng.

Low, who claims innocence, was well-known among the New York City club scene and Los Angeles clubs. In 2012, he threw an opulent 31st birthday bash attended by DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities — a fete described by The Wall Street Journal as the “wildest party (Las) Vegas ever saw.”

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