NEW YORK—A former Goldman Sachs banker was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for his role in stealing billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that was used to finance wealthy parties, superyachts, premium real estate, and even the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Roger Ng was convicted in April by a US District Court jury in Brooklyn, but he continues to deny allegations that he conspired to launder money and violated two anti-bribery laws.
Prosecutors said Ng and his accomplices helped the Malaysian fund, known as 1MDB, raise $6.5 billion through bond sales—only to participate in a scheme that absorbed more than two-thirds of money, some of which went to pay bribes. and kickbacks.
Reading from a prepared statement, Ng asked for mercy from US District Judge Margo Brodie.
“I am ashamed. I am ashamed,” he told the judge.
“I don’t want to live with a grudge,” he said. “I want to redeem myself.”
The judge advised Ng: “The only explanation for your behavior is greed.”
Ng hopes to avoid jail time and be allowed to return to Malaysia, where he faces a separate prosecution. His lawyers argued that imprisonment would worsen his “severe mental health condition.”
The theft of the state-controlled development fund—and attempts to cover up the thefts—toppled the Malaysian government, sent ripples through Hollywood, where some of the stolen money went to finance movies, and touched Washington, where people involved in the scheme financed a campaign to influence the outcome of the investigation.
The man accused of being the architect of the plot, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as “Jho Low,” remains an international fugitive. Before he went into hiding, he was known for his business and social relationships with American celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kim Kardashian.
Ng’s lawyers acknowledged that the 1MDB looting was “probably the single biggest heist in the history of the world,” but said their client was the fall guy for Low and a fellow Goldman Sachs banker who was also charged with $4.5 billion scheme.
Tim Leissner, Ng’s former boss at Goldman Sachs, pleaded guilty in 2018 to bribing government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. He was ordered to pay $43.7 million and was the government’s main witness in Ng’s two-month trial.
Ng was extradited to the United States in 2019 after spending six months in custody in Malaysia. He has been under house arrest for the past four years. Federal prosecutors had asked for a 15-year sentence.
Ng was allowed to leave the courthouse and will surrender to authorities within two months, unless the judge grants his request to remain free on bail while he appeals.
The judge declined to issue a fine, and will consider the amount of the forfeiture in the coming days. That amount could be up to $35 million.
Ng, who manages investment banking in Malaysia for his firm, said Leissner implicated him in order to obtain leniency during his own sentencing. Leissner has not yet been sentenced.
In 2020, Goldman Sachs acknowledged its role in the embezzlement scheme and paid more than US$2.3 billion as part of a plea deal with the US government. The company also reached a $3.9 billion settlement with the Malaysian government.
The US government said that the theft of so much money is harming the people of Malaysia.
The fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was established in 2009 by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development.
The financial scandal helped bring down his government in the country’s 2018 elections. A Malaysian court would later convict him of abusing his power and committing other crimes connected to massive embezzlement. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
But Najib was acquitted last week of tampering with an audit to cover up wrongdoing.