NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The wife of former Goldman Sachs Group banker Roger Ng denied that US$35 million (S$47.6 million) held in an account in her mother's name was stolen from 1MDB, claiming instead that the money was the return on a legitimate investment.
Prosecutors claim the money was a kickback that Ng, the only Goldman banker to go on trial over 1MDB, received for allegedly conspiring with his former boss Tim Leissner and Malaysian financier Jho Low to loot billions of dollars from the sovereign wealth fund.
But Ng's wife, Hwee Bin Lim, testified on Monday (March 28) that she invested her parents' money in businesses controlled by Leissner's then-wife, Judy Chan Leissner.
"Do you know if the source of that money was from 1MDB?" Ng's lawyer, Marc Agnifolo, asked Lim during the trial in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
"Not at all," Lim answered. "It had to come from Judy and her family. Judy is paying me for my return of my investment."
Leissner, who pleaded guilty to 1MDB charges and was the government's main witness against Ng, previously testified that the investment in Chan Leissner's family business was a "cover story" that he, Ng and Lim crafted to hide the money's origins as the 1MDB investigation heated up.
Lim said on Monday that she befriended Chan Leissner after Ng began working under Leissner in 2005.
The two couples often socialised, Lim said, and she would also see Chan Leissner at the health club to which both women belonged.
According to Lim, the women's friendship turned into a chance to invest in Chan Leissner's family businesses, which included China's largest vineyard.
Lim said she and her family initially put US$6 million into the venture, which grew considerably.
But Lim said the investment came to an end in 2011 after Chan Leissner discovered that Leissner was having an affair with Rohana Rozhan, former chief executive officer of media company Astro Malaysia Holdings, which Lim and Ng had known about.
Leissner testified earlier during the trial that his affair with Rozhan lasted from 2003 to 2013.
'Think about divestment'
"Judy called me and she went ballistic over Tim's relationship with Rohana," Lim said. "She said, 'It's time you should think about divestment.'"
Lim testified that her investment with Chan Leissner had grown to be worth about US$26 million by then.
She said she had hoped it would grow more with an initial public offering Chan Leissner's family was planning for the vineyard, but Chan Leissner insisted on returning the money to Lim and her family.
Her brother set up an account for the money at UBS Group in Singapore and an offshore entity, both in their mother's name, in May 2012, Lim said.
Prosecutors have noted that was also the same month the first bond offering Goldman handled for 1MDB closed.
Lim didn't explain on the stand Monday how the US$26 million became US$35 million. Her testimony is expected to continue on Tuesday.
Leissner testified that he and Chan Leissner met with Ng and Lim in Hong Kong in 2016, as the investigations into 1MDB were ramping up.
After Chan Leissner left the meeting, Leissner said he stayed behind with Ng and Lim. He said the three of them agreed to tell investigators that the US$35 million was from a separate business transaction and not related to 1MDB.