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1MDB’s ‘he said, he said’ trial
The trial in one of the largest international kleptocracy cases in history, the looting of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, is in the final stretch. Roger Ng, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is accused of assisting the scheme’s mastermind, Jho Low.
The proceedings have turned into a “he said, he said” affair, The Times’s Matt Goldstein reports, pitting Ng against another former Goldman banker, Tim Leissner, who has already pleaded guilty and who last week finished 10 days of testimony. Goldman, which made $600 million in fees to arrange bond deals for 1MDB, has also pleaded guilty on behalf of an Asian subsidiary and paid more than $5 billion in fines.
There are two more weeks scheduled in Ng’s trial. Here’s the latest:
A quick recap: Malaysia set up 1MDB in the late 2000s, with Low as an adviser. Starting in 2009, Goldman underwrote a series of bonds for the fund that raised $6.5 billion for economic development. Instead, much of the money was redirected by Low and others close to the Malaysian prime minister at the time, Najib Razak, who has since been convicted in his home country and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Low is believed to be living in China, beyond the reach of U.S. prosecutors.
What Leissner says: Goldman’s former top dealmaker in Asia said that Ng was Low’s primary contact at the bank. Leissner said that Ng set up a key meeting with Low in which Low told the bankers whom to bribe in order for Goldman to land the bond deals.
What Ng says: Ng has not testified, but his lawyers have called Leissner a liar, with ample evidence. Among other things, Leissner admits to presenting bogus divorce papers to his now-estranged wife and admitted that he “lied a lot.” Goldman also painted Leissner as a con man in its defense.
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Experts’ take: Leissner’s deceptions complicate the Ng case, but don’t kill it, said Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor and a professor at New York Law School who specializes in legal ethics. A bigger problem for the government’s case, she said, could be that Leissner was Ng’s boss.