No plea deal seen this week for ex Goldman banker Ng on US charges in 1MDB case

Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng was released in exchange for a US$20 million (S$2.76 million) bond on May 6, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng is unlikely to get a plea deal this week on criminal charges linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal at the Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB, both sides told Reuters on Thursday (May 23).

Plea negotiations are not yet on the agenda, a lawyer for Ng and a spokesman for the US Department of Justice said.

Instead, they plan to only discuss scheduling for case proceedings at a Brooklyn federal court.

Prosecutors and Ng's lawyer, in a May 6 court document related to the case, requested delaying the trial date for Ng because they believed plea negotiations "are likely to result in a disposition of this case without trial."

The US Department of Justice accused 46-year-old Ng last year of conspiring to launder money and bribe government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi through bond offerings that Goldman Sachs handled. He was extradited on May 3 to New York from Kuala Lumpur, where he had been jailed since November.

Ng pleaded not guilty to the charges on May 6 and was released in exchange for a US$20 million (S$2.76 million) bond.

Government lawyers have said they hope to avoid a trial by reaching a plea deal, though Ng's attorney, Marc Agnifilo said this month it was too early to tell.

Ng, who left Goldman Sachs in 2014, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the three charges based on alleged violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Malaysia's home minister wanted Ng to face criminal charges there first, but agreed to temporarily surrender him to the United States for 10 months, Malaysia's attorney general, Tommy Thomas, said in a statement.

The period may be extended, Thomas has said.

The 1MDB case has shaken Goldman Sachs, which is also being probed by the Justice Department for its role as underwriter and arranger for some US$6.5 billion worth of 1MDB bond offerings.

Prosecutors estimated that high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates misappropriated US$4.5 billion between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to it about how the bond proceeds would be used.

Ng was charged in Kuala Lumpur with four counts of abetting the bank to provide misleading statements in the offering prospectus for 1MDB bond sales.

Tim Leissner, another former Goldman Sachs banker, and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho have also been charged in the United States over 1MDB. Leissner has pleaded guilty.

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, has consistently denied wrongdoing through spokesmen.

Malaysia has said it was seeking up to US$7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman over its dealings with 1MDB, set up in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Najib, who lost a general election last year, faces 42 criminal charges related to losses at 1MDB and other state entities. He has pleaded not guilty.

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