A former managing director of Goldman Sachs recevied a 10-year prison sentence for conspiring to launder billions of dollars that had been embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, Malaysia’s state investment fund.
According to court documents, between 2009 and 2014, Ng Chong Hwa, also known as Roger Ng, laundered billions of dollars that had been misappropriated and fraudulently diverted from 1MDB. This includes money the Malaysian pension fund raised in 2012 and 2013 through three bond transactions with Goldman Sachs—allegedly in exchange for bribe money.
Ng and his co-conspirators, including Goldman Sachs’ former Southeast Asia chairman and participating managing director Tim Leissner, allegedly paid more than $1 billion in bribes to 12 government officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates to obtain and retain business for Goldman Sachs, including the 2012 and 2013 bond deals.
According to the indictment, Ng and his co-conspirators laundered the proceeds of the ill-gotten funds through purchasing a $51 million Jean-Michel Basquiat painting from Christie’s auction house, a $23 million diamond necklace, millions of dollars in Hermès handbags and luxury Manhattan real estate, among other things. Ironically, the laundering also allegedly included funding major Hollywood films, including “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a film about corruption and fraud in finance.
“Roger 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,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a release.
The Department of Justice said Ng spent years cultivating a relationship with wealthy Malaysian socialite Low Taek Jho—also known as Jho Low—to take advantage of Low’s close relationships with high-ranking government officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, whom Ng allegedly bribed. It also said that Goldman Sachs, through its work for 1MDB during that time, received approximately $600 million in fees and revenue, while Ng received $35 million for his role. In total, Ng and his co-conspirators misappropriated more than $2.7 billion from 1MDB, according to the Justice Department.
When Ng tried to make Low a private wealth management client for Goldman Sachs, he allegedly lied to the firm’s compliance personnel about his relationship with Low when confronted with questions about Low’s government connections and source of wealth. Ng also allegedly communicated with Low about business opportunities using personal email accounts to avoid detection by Goldman Sachs compliance.
Leissner, who is awaiting sentencing, pleaded guilty in 2018 for conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. He was ordered to forfeit $43 million and shares of stock worth more than $200 million. Low remains a fugitive at large.