Ex-Goldman banker Roger Ng vows to fight U.S. money-laundering charges

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KUALA LUMPUR/MANHATTAN (May 6): Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng is in the U.S. and ready to fight charges that he broke American anti-bribery laws and conspired to launder money that was embezzled from Malaysia’s state investment fund 1MDB.

Ng arrived in New York from Malaysia early Monday and is scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn to face a magistrate later in the day. Ng agreed to come to the U.S. voluntarily and will ask to be released on bail, his lawyer Marc Agnifilo said.

"I hope to get him out on release conditions," Agnifilo said in an interview Monday. “I’m happy he’s here in the United States and we can now move forward.”

Prosecutors alleged bribes and kickbacks were paid in connection with Goldman’s bond offerings on 1MDB’s behalf, which helped the fund raise more than US$6 billion and which generated some US$600 million in fees for the bank. Former senior Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to Malaysia and Abu Dhabi officials and circumventing Goldman’s internal accounting controls.

Also charged is Jho Low, the alleged mastermind behind the multibillion-dollar theft from 1MDB. He remains at large. U.S. prosecutors are looking to sell Low’s US$39 million mansion in Los Angeles that he allegedly bought in 2012 with money stolen from the investment fund.

Ng was Leissner’s deputy and left Goldman in 2014. He was detained in Kuala Lumpur in November, after the U.S. charges were made public.

Bail Request

Agnifilo said he was in Malaysia in February and told authorities there that his client wanted to come to New York to face the U.S. charges. Ng will stay in the U.S. as long as necessary to fight them Agnifilo said. Ng reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department on the terms of his bail, his lawyer Tan Hock Chuan said in January, but Agnifilo said he’d ask the magistrate Monday to release Ng on bond.

"There’s a tremendous amount to learn,” Agnifilo said on Monday. “Since he’s been in jail in Malaysia I’ve only been able to speak to him for about only four hours.”

Thomas Statement

Malaysia’s Attorney General Tommy Thomas said Ng was extradited on a warrant that allows him to remain in U.S. custody for up to 10 months. The term can be extended if both Malaysia and the U.S. agree, Thomas said in a statement.

After U.S. prosecution is finished, Ng will return to Malaysia to face separate 1MDB-related charges brought by the Southeast Asian nation, Thomas said.

“This arrangement is further evidence of the strong collaboration between the relevant government agencies of our two countries in all matters pertaining to the massive 1MDB scandal,” Thomas said in the statement.

The agreement to send Ng to the U.S. marks an about-face from Minister of Home Affairs Muhyiddin Yassin’s earlier insistence on delaying his extradition to prioritize the Malaysian case against the former banker. That had risked raising questions over Malaysia’s willingness to cooperate with other jurisdictions in getting to the bottom of the global scandal.

However, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week lauded the return of millions of dollars of 1MDB funds from the U.S. and Singapore.

Malaysia has also charged the New York-based bank with misleading investors, when it helped 1MDB raise money through bond deals in 2012 and 2013, while knowing that the funds would be misappropriated. Goldman has denied the allegations and said it will defend against the charges.