Malaysian court allows ex-Goldman banker Roger Ng to return to US to face 1MDB charges

Roger Ng is accused of helping his boss at Goldman launder money and bribe officials from two countries as part of the bank’s work for 1MDB.
Roger Ng is accused of helping his boss at Goldman launder money and bribe officials from two countries as part of the bank’s work for 1MDB.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES) - Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker caught up in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fraud scandal, will be allowed to return to the United States to face criminal charges against him there, a Malaysian court ruled on Friday (Feb 15).

Ng has been detained in Kuala Lumpur since Nov 1, shortly after the US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced charges against him for allegedly laundering funds siphoned off from the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund. He left Goldman Sachs in 2014.

Ng had agreed to waive extradition and would be sent to the United States pending an order from the Malaysian home affairs ministry, judge Edwin Paramjothy Michael Muniandy said in a Kuala Lumpur court on Friday.

His lawyer, Tan Hock Chuan, asked for the order to be issued within 30 days. It must be issued within three months under Malaysian law. Ng had reached an agreement with the DoJ on bail and other terms, Tan said. “The respondent intends to defend the case on its merits in the court of the Eastern District of New York, the United States,” Tan told the court.

Marc Agnifilo, Ng’s New York-based lawyer, told Reuters ahead of the hearing that his client intended to plead not guilty when he appeared in a US federal court.

Ng is facing separate criminal charges in Malaysia but it is unclear how they will affect his transfer. The attorney-general’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Tim Leissner, another Goldman Sachs official, and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho have also been charged in the United States over the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB. Leissner has pleaded guilty.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman, asked about Ng, said: “As we have said all along, we are outraged that any employee of the firm would undertake the actions detailed in the government’s charges.”

Goldman Sachs is being investigated by Malaysian authorities and the DoJ for its role as underwriter and arranger of three bond sales that raised $6.5 billion for 1MDB.

The charges against Ng relate to an alleged scheme by the country's former leaders to loot 1MDB, which used Goldman's investment banking services to issue US$6 billion (S$8.1 billion) in bonds meant to fund infrastructure projects in the country.

But the former prime minister, Najib Razak, and his family, along with Jho Low, a young financier in their inner circle, allegedly spent a large portion of the money on jewels, jets and artwork instead.

Najib was arrested on Malaysian charges in July. Ng and Low have been charged by federal prosecutors and Malaysian authorities. Low remains at large and was last believed to be in China.

Ng's decision to trade a Malaysian jail for an American one is hardly surprising. Malaysia's government is now led by Najib's political opposition and wants Goldman to pay the country US$7.5 billion in damages.

Mr Robin Rathmell, Low's lawyer, suggested that it would be difficult to get a fair trial in Malaysia on the 1MDB charges.

"The Malaysian government has made it clear it has pre-judged the guilt of everyone connected to this case, and the inhumane conditions in Malaysia's prisons are well publicised," he wrote in an e-mail.