Malaysia hands over ex-Goldman Sachs banker to the US

Malaysia has quietly handed over former Goldman Sachs investment banker Roger Ng to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) after secret negotiations that have come on the heels of the planned return of more than US$200 million (S$273 million) in seized funds linked to the scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Two senior executives familiar with the matter said Ng, who has been in jail since November, was handed over to US government officials over the weekend. He arrived in New York yesterday.

Malaysian Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said in a statement yesterday that Ng was handed over to the US under a temporary surrender warrant signed by Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on April 25.

Ng, 47, who left the investment bank and financial services company in 2014, was slapped with a provisional warrant of arrest in late October by the DOJ, which sought Malaysia's help to locate him.

Ng was arrested in November by the Malaysian authorities and was charged in a Malaysian court with four counts of abetting Goldman Sachs in selling US$6 billion of notes and bonds issued by 1MDB by omitting material information and publishing untrue information.

He is wanted by the DOJ to face charges in a New York federal court that he helped his former boss, Tim Liessner, to launder money and bribe government officials as part of Goldman Sachs' work for 1MDB.

The US has also been keen to have him in custody as part of a wider initiative for the DOJ to build its case against Goldman Sachs.

The US is keen to have Roger Ng in custody as part of a wider initiative to build its case against Goldman Sachs.
The US is keen to have Roger Ng in custody as part of a wider initiative to build its case against Goldman Sachs.

According to Mr Thomas, the practical consequences of Ng facing criminal charges in two different jurisdictions led to negotiations between the two countries on where he should be tried first. Those talks resulted in the temporary surrender warrant that will extend for 10 months.

Lawyers and state investigators involved in the 1MDB saga both in Malaysia and abroad noted that Ng's extradition marks a breakthrough in the behind-the-scenes horse-trading between Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's administration and the US as both governments pursue perpetrators of the multibillion-dollar scandal.

The secret talks have not always been smooth, lawyers and government officials acknowledge. For example, the DOJ was not pleased when Malaysia secretly worked with Indonesian President Joko Widodo's government in August last year to wrest control of the superyacht Equanimity.

The US$230 million luxury vessel, allegedly bought by fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho with funds embezzled from 1MDB, was seized months earlier off the resort island of Bali by the Indonesian authorities on behalf of Washington.

Shortly after the seizure of the yacht - since sold to gaming conglomerate Genting - Malaysia wanted to take over a Bombardier Global 500 jet, another asset allegedly bought with embezzled 1MDB funds, that was seized by the Singapore Government. The DOJ rejected Malaysia's request.

Negotiations over Ng's extradition began after his arrest in November and went on until February, when a deal was reached.

Ng agreed to voluntarily return to the US to face abetment charges in a scheme to loot 1MDB by waiving his rights to extradition committal proceedings in Malaysia.

Under that plan, Ng was supposed to have left for the US by mid-March.

But the deal broke down shortly after, when Kuala Lumpur decided that Ng would be handed over to the US only after his trials in Malaysian courts were completed.

Lawyers familiar with the situation noted that Ng's handover to Washington is closely tied to the agreement reached last week between the two governments for the US to return about US$200 million of funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.

Mr Thomas said Ng shall be returned to Malaysia to face charges as soon as the proceedings in the US end, adding that the period of temporary surrender may be extended upon mutual agreement between the two governments.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia hands over ex-Goldman Sachs banker to the US'. Print Edition | Subscribe