Bloomberg Law
March 10, 2023, 1:06 AM

Ex-Goldman Banker’s Prison Term Previews What Former Boss Faces

Patricia Hurtado
Patricia Hurtado
Bloomberg News

The 10-year prison sentence handed down to former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Roger Ng shows the enormous risk he took by going to trial to fight charges that he helped carry out the massive 1MDB fraud.

It also raises a question about how much prison time a US judge will impose on Ng’s former boss, Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty and testified against him as the government’s star witness, when Leissner is sentenced in September.

The looting of billions of dollars from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund was masterminded by Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who’s now a fugitive. The US claims Low took $1.42 billion, enriched the country’s former prime minister by almost $800 million and funneled hundreds of millions of dollars more to corrupt officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

Next to those staggering benchmarks of corruption, Ng pocketed $35.1 million, while Leissner, Goldman’s former Southeast Asia chairman and Ng’s former supervisor, made off with $73 million.

Leissner is likely to get rewarded for his cooperation with prosecutors, leaving Ng as the only Goldman banker to spend significant time behind bars for the fraud.

“Ten years is a hell of a long time,” said Jeff Ifrah, a white-collar defense lawyer and expert on federal sentencing guidelines. By comparison, he said, accidentally killing someone and getting convicted of involuntary manslaughter might result in a four or five-year sentence.

Read More: Ex-Goldman Banker Trial Reveals Greed, Graft From 1MDB Scheme

Dennis Kelleher, co-founder and chief executive officer at Better Markets, an organization advocating stricter financial regulation, said it “sends the wrong message” that the government is scapegoating Ng while higher-ranking Goldman executives who oversaw the 1MDB bond deals evaded prosecution. A report on 1MDB issued by Better Markets concluded that without Goldman Sachs, the fraud scheme would have never happened.

“Rather than go after those 30 Goldman officers and executives, the Department of Justice gave the bank a sweetheart deal, effectively letting the bank buy a ‘get out of jail free’ card for its executives,” Kelleher said in an interview. “Compounding that miscarriage of justice, the DOJ prosecuted just one junior Goldman partner, Roger Ng.”

A federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, convicted Ng last April of conspiring to violate US anti-bribery laws and launder money.

“This is one of the biggest financial crimes in the history of the world,” US District Judge Margo Brodie said Thursday before announcing Ng’s sentence.

QuickTake: How Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal Shook the Financial World

The disgraced 51-year-old former Goldman managing director had asked the judge to mete out no jail time at all, beyond the six-month term he’d already served in a squalid Malaysian facility.

Brodie said Ng had held “a great job, made good money and would have been comfortable.” So “the only explanation is greed,” the judge said, and there was a “critical need” to deter it.

Roger Ng leaves federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on March 9.
Photographer: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg

Goldman paid more than $2.9 billion to US authorities and more than $5 billion globally for its role in the scandal, with its Malaysian unit pleading guilty in the US to a single conspiracy charge. Goldman’s US penalty was the largest-ever for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Ng was arrested in Malaysia in November 2018 and extradited in May 2019 to face charges in New York, where he was released to home detention on a $20 million bond. On Thursday, the judge cited his Malaysian detention as one reason for she didn’t grant prosecutors’ request for a 15-year term.

Read More: Ex-Goldman Banker Ng Says Malaysian Jail Was ‘Absolute Hell’

Ng’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo said after the sentencing he will file an appeal.

‘Difficult Five Years’

“We’re disappointed,” Agnifilo said. “It’s been an incredibly difficult five years, and the judge did acknowledge it, and heard all our arguments.”

He noted that Ng still faces criminal charges in Malaysia and, once he finishes his term in the US, will have to return to face them.

“I would imagine a 10-year sentence will make an impression on them,” he said.

Breon Peace, the US attorney in Brooklyn whose office prosecuted the case, called the sentence “a just punishment.”

Ng was “a central player in a brazen and audacious scheme that not only victimized the people of Malaysia, but also risked undermining the public’s confidence in governments, markets, businesses and other institutions on a global scale,” he said in a statement.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak received $756 million in the scheme, and Khadem al-Qubaisi, a former managing director of Abu Dhabi’s state-owned International Petroleum Investment Co, which guaranteed the 1MDB transactions, got $472.8 million, a forensic accountant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified at Ng’s trial.

“The government already sent its message to the world about Goldman when it accepted its money for a deferred prosecution agreement,” Agnifilo wrote Wednesday to the judge in urging leniency for Ng.

The case is US v. Ng, 18-cr-538, US District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

To contact the reporter on this story:
Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Anthony Lin at

Peter Jeffrey, Peter Blumberg

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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