Ex-Goldman banker Roger Ng must forfeit $47m over 1MDB crimes, says US court

Former Goldman Sachs Group banker Roger Ng was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the global 1MDB fraud. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK – Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the global 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fraud, was ordered to forfeit US$35.1 million (S$47 million) by a judge who rejected his claims that Malaysia had already taken all of his money.

At his March 9 sentencing, federal prosecutors asked United States District Judge Margo Brodie in Brooklyn, New York, to order Ng to forfeit the sum as ill-gotten gains from the conspiracy to loot the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Ng’s lawyer, Mr Marc Agnifilo, argued that no other penalties were needed because his client had no money left.

Judge Brodie declined, at the time, to immediately order forfeiture. But on Friday, she said that under the law she is required to impose the penalty, and the amount “is not constitutionally excessive”. 

Mr Agnifilo said: “We are appealing several issues, including the court’s recent forfeiture ruling. Nothing has shaken our belief in Mr Ng’s innocence and we will fight this as long as necessary.”

Ng, a 51-year-old Malaysian, was convicted of conspiring to violate US anti-bribery laws and taking part in a money-laundering scheme.

His former Goldman boss and 1MDB co-conspirator, Tim Leissner, previously pleaded guilty and was the government’s star witness against Ng. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

On March 3, Judge Brodie ordered Leissner to forfeit US$43.7 million in cash and 3.3 million shares, valued at US$300 million as at Friday, in fitness drink company Celsius Holdings.

While Ng argued that he was less culpable than Leissner or Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who the US said masterminded the fraud, Judge Brodie rejected his arguments, saying he “wilfully engaged” in the multibillion-dollar scheme.

“Even if Ng is less responsible than the others charged with similar offences, he played a role in one of the largest financial crimes of all time,” she said in her ruling.

“The scheme resulted in enormous tangible harm, the theft of US$3 billion, and intangible harm to the confidence in democracy and government.”

Mr Agnifilo had argued that the Malaysian authorities had seized all of Ng’s assets and accounts and those of his family members before he was arrested on US charges in late 2018. 

Judge Brodie turned down that argument.

“Ng has failed to show that forfeiture would destroy his future livelihood,” the judge said. “The fact that he already paid a large sum to the Malaysian government does not, on its own, render the forfeiture amount constitutionally excessive.” BLOOMBERG

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