Ex-Goldman Sachs banker who aided ‘largest heist in the history of the world’ gets 10-year prison sentence

March 9, 2023, 6:34 PM UTC
Roger Ng, former banker for Goldman Sachs.
Wes Bruer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A former Goldman Sachs banker was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for his role in looting a Malaysian development fund to pay for billions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks that were used to finance lavish parties, a superyacht, premium real estate and even the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Roger Ng was convicted last April by a U.S. District Court jury in Brooklyn, but he continues to deny charges that he conspired to launder money and violated two anti-bribery laws.

Prosecutors said Ng and his co-conspirators helped the Malaysian fund, known as 1MDB, raise $6.5 billion through bond sales — only to siphon more than two-thirds of it for bribes and to enrich themselves.

Ng had hoped that he would avoid prison time and be allowed to return to Malaysia, where he faces a separate prosecution. His lawyers had argued that incarceration would worsen his “serious mental health condition.”

Ng was extradited to the United States in 2019 after spending six months in custody in Malaysia. He has been under house arrest for the past four years.

Federal prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie for a 15-year sentence.

His lawyers acknowledged the looting was “perhaps the single largest heist in the history of the world.” But they failed to convince the jury that Ng was the fall guy for two other people charged in the $4.5 billion scheme.

One of them, Tim Leissner, Ng’s former boss at Goldman Sachs, pleaded guilty in 2018 to bribing government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. He was ordered to pay $43.7 million and became a key government witness during Ng’s two-month trial.

The third man, the Malaysian financier known as “Jho Low,” remains an international fugitive.

Ng, who oversaw investment banking in Malaysia for his firm, was the only Goldman Sachs banker to stand trial. He said Leissner implicated him to gain leniency during his own sentencing. Leissner has not yet been sentenced.

In 2020, Goldman Sachs acknowledged its role in the embezzlement scheme and paid more than US$2.3 billion as part of a plea deal with the U,S, government. The firm had previously reached a $3.9 billion settlement with the government of Malaysia.

The U.S. government said the theft of so much money harmed the people of Malaysia.

The fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was set up in 2009 by Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development.

The financial scandal helped topple his government during the country’s 2018 elections. A Malaysian court would later find him guilty of abusing his power and committing other crimes in connection to the massive embezzlement. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

But Najib was acquitted last week of tampering with an audit to cover up wrongdoing.

The scandal touched on several figures in the U.S.

A top fundraiser for former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, Elliott Broidy, was charged with running an illegal lobbying campaign on Jho Low’s behalf to get the Justice Department to drop its investigation into 1MDB’s looting. Broidy pleaded guilty, but was later pardoned by Trump, so was never sentenced.

A member of the hip-hop group the Fugees, Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, was also charged with being part of a conspiracy to help Low make illegal campaign contributions. Michel says he is innocent.

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