Roger Ng, the former Goldman Sachs banker convicted in connection with the multibillion-dollar embezzlement scheme at 1MDB, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday in a New York court, the latest chapter in one of the biggest financial scandals in recent history.
Last year, a US jury in Brooklyn found Ng, a 50-year-old Malaysian citizen, guilty on all three counts in his case: conspiring to violate US anti-bribery laws, conspiring to launder money and conspiring to skirt Goldman’s internal accounting controls.
He had faced the prospect of up to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors had requested a minimum sentence of 15 years, while Ng’s lawyers had asked he serve no additional prison time.
The sentencing concludes one of the most high-profile cases linked to the Malaysian state investment fund, from which the US Department of Justice alleges $4.5bn was misappropriated and funnelled across the globe to buy luxury real estate, expensive jewellery and finance The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar-nominated film on financial malfeasance, among other things.
Ng, who did not testify during his trial, had pleaded not guilty and was extradited to the US in 2019 after being arrested in Malaysia a year earlier. He is involved in a separate case related to 1MDB in the south-east Asian country.
Marc Agnifilo, Ng’s lawyer said he would appeal against the judge’s decision. “We’re disappointed,” he added. “It’s been an incredibly difficult five years for him”.
While reading her decision, US district judge Margo Brodie said she had considered Ng’s diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his previous stay in a Malaysian prison, where Agnifilo said he contracted leptospirosis from the rats in his cell as well as malaria.
But Brodie said there was a “critical need to deter crimes of pure greed like this one”, adding that the “only explanation for [Ng’s] conduct is greed”.
“This is one of the biggest financial crimes in the history of the world,” she said.
Ng appeared moved when Agnifilo mentioned his daughter in Malaysia, who he has not seen in five years. He smiled briefly when greeting a Buddhist monk from a temple he has visited in Queens, New York. The monk told the judge Ng was a “very good person” with a “very good heart”.
“It destroys me that my family will be further punished because of me,” Ng told the judge. “I plead for your mercy and a chance to return home.” When Brodie finally announced his sentence, Ng listened with a bowed head.
The US government accused Ng of being a crucial link to 1MDB and Jho Low, the Malaysian financier accused of masterminding the embezzlement scheme, which extended from Malaysia to Switzerland and the US. Low remains at large and maintains his innocence.
Prosecutors also alleged Ng misappropriated $35mn in stolen 1MDB funds, a payment his lawyer said was linked to an unrelated investment involving Ng’s wife.
“Roger Ng was a central player in a brazen and audacious scheme that not only victimised the people of Malaysia, but also risked undermining the public’s confidence in governments, markets, businesses and other institutions on a global scale,” Breon Peace, the US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said in a statement after the hearing.
As Goldman’s former head of investment banking in Malaysia and later as a member of the bank’s securities division in Asia, Ng participated in arranging three 1MDB bond deals in 2012 and 2013. The transactions generated more than $600mn in fees and raised approximately $6.5bn, a chunk of which was used to pay bribes to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, according to US authorities.
Goldman, which reached a settlement of up to $3.9bn with Malaysia and paid a record $2.9bn in a global settlement in 2020, has said it was lied to by “certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB”.
The conclusion of Ng’s US case paves the way for the sentencing of Tim Leissner, an ex-Goldman partner who pleaded guilty to charges of violating foreign bribery laws in connection with 1MDB and conspiring to launder money.
Leissner, who was Ng’s former boss, signed a co-operation agreement with the US in the hope he would receive a lighter sentence and became the government’s star witness in Ng’s trial. He is set to be sentenced on September 6 and has been ordered to forfeit $43.7mn.
During the proceedings, which lasted nearly two months, Agnifilo argued there was no evidence tying his client to the 1MDB scandal save for Leissner’s testimony, which he said was not truthful. He called Leissner a “one of a kind” liar.