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1MDB’s “he said, he said” trial
The trial in one of the biggest cases of international kleptocracy in history, the looting of billions of dollars from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, is in the home stretch. Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs banker, is accused of aiding the mastermind of the scheme, Jho Low.
The proceedings have turned into a “he said, he said” case, reports Matt Goldstein of the Times, pitting Ng against another former Goldman banker, Tim Leissner, who has already pleaded guilty and ended last week. 10 days of testimony. Goldman, which paid $600 million in fees to arrange bond deals for 1MDB, also pleaded guilty on behalf of an Asian subsidiary and paid more than $5 billion in fines.
There are still two weeks scheduled in Ng’s trial. Here is the last one:
A quick recap: Malaysia established 1MDB in the late 2000s, with Low as an advisor. Beginning 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 funneled through Low and others close to then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has since been found guilty in his home country and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Low is believed to be living in China, beyond the reach of US prosecutors.
What Leissner says: Goldman’s former chief Asia trader said Ng was Low’s main contact at the bank. Leissner said Ng arranged a key meeting with Low in which Low told the bankers who to bribe in order for Goldman to land the bond deals.
What Ng says: Ng did not testify, but his lawyers called Leissner a liar, with ample evidence. Among other things, Leissner admits to showing fake divorce papers to his now estranged wife and admitted that he “lied a lot.” Goldman also painted Leissner as a crook in his defense.
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Expert opinion: Leissner’s disappointments complicate the Ng case, but don’t kill it, said Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor and New York Law School professor specializing in legal ethics. A bigger problem for the government case, she said, might be that Leissner was Ng’s boss.