Ex-Goldman Banker Did 1MDB for ‘Glory and Greed,’ Jury Told

Attorney calls testimony implicating Roger Ng ‘ridiculous’

by BLOOMBERG

FORMER Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Tim Leissner implicated his ex-colleague Roger Ng (picture) in a scheme to loot billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB fund because he wanted “to close the biggest deal of his life” and avoid prison, Ng’s lawyer told a jury.

In closing statements Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Ng’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo said it was Leissner who helped Malaysian financier Jho Low carry out the massive fraud, but he named Ng as his co-conspirator after he was arrested by the U.S. in 2018.

“The government caught the person responsible for this and that person was Tim Leissner,” Agnifilo said. “Tim Leissner knew that he could go into this and lie, and so far, he’s done nothing but win. But he’s not believable,” he said. “Roger Ng is basically the fall guy and Leissner is looking to close the biggest deal of his life.”

Leissner spent 10 days testifying as the government’s key witness against Ng, the only Goldman banker go to trial in the international 1MDB scandal, for which the bank paid more than $5 billion in penalties. On Monday, the defense lawyer highlighted inconsistencies in Leissner’s account and challenged his credibility.

“Ridiculous” is how Agnifilo described Leissner’s testimony that he and Ng met with Low at his home in London in 2012 and the financier drew a chart of those he intended to bribe – including the former prime minister of Malaysia and Abu Dhabi officials. Agnifilo said Leissner cooperated with the U.S. for almost three years before mentioning the existence of the chart.

Agnifilo argued his client was the only Goldman employee who raised “red flags” about the financier with compliance officials who vetted Low as a private client, citing concerns about the source of his wealth. The attorney said that contrary to the government’s claims, Ng wasn’t concealing Low’s involvement in deals, but instead was advising superiors of Low’s participation in transactions ahead of 1MDB.

Meanwhile, Leissner was involved in at least eight “side deals” with Low in which Ng played no role — and even tried to take the 1MDB deal to another bank, according to Agnifilo.

The $35 million that prosecutors said Leissner paid Ng for his role in the fraud was really a payment from Leissner’s then-wife to Ng’s wife for a separate business transaction in China, the lawyer told jurors.

“When you go back to that jury room, ask yourself, ‘Can I really rely on a single thing Leissner said?’” Agnifilo said.

Prosecutor Alixandra Smith told jurors in her closing statement that Ng joined the 1MDB fraud for both “glory and greed,” arguing that even as the banker sought tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks from Low he also hoped to make partner. Goldman earned more than $600 million from trio of lucrative bond deals for 1Malaysia Development Bhd. 

“While the defendant was making millions of dollars a year working for Goldman Sachs, he wanted glory to move up from being a managing director to a partner,” Smith said. “Most importantly, he wanted the money promised, which was $35 million.”

Ng is charged with two counts of conspiring to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws and one count of conspiring to launder money and faces the possibility of decades in prison if he is convicted.

The case is U.S. v. Low, 18-cr-538, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).