‘Wolf of Wall Street’ financier sentenced for embezzlement
Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was sentenced by a US court to ten years in prison on Thursday for his role in embezzling billions of dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The verdict follows Ng’s initial conviction back in April last year, when he was found guilty of helping Tim Leissner, his former boss at Goldman Sachs, drain money from the fund.
Goldman Sachs helped 1MDB, a fund set up in 2009 to finance development projects in Malaysia, raise $6.5 billion through bond sales back in 2012 and 2013.
According to US prosecutors, some $4.5 billion of these funds were diverted by Ng and his co-conspirators in the process. They were then used for bribes to government officials, purchases of high-end real estate and other luxury items. According to the Department of Justice, some of the money even went to finance the 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, which is itself a story of defrauding and money laundering.
According to US District Judge Margo Brodie, Ng and his co-defendants “effectively stole money” that was supposed to go toward infrastructure and economic development projects in Malaysia.
“There is a critical need to deter crimes of pure greed like this one,” Brodie said, commenting on the sentence.
Ng pleaded not guilty and said that the $35 million he was accused of getting in payments from the embezzlement scheme were in fact a return on his wife’s investment. The former banker plans to file an appeal.
At the time of the embezzlement, Ng was the head of investment banking for Goldman Sachs Malaysia, while Tim Leissner had been Goldman’s Southeast Asia chief. Leissner pleaded guilty in 2018 and agreed to testify against Ng. He has not yet been sentenced. Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as ‘Jho Low’, is believed to be the mastermind of the entire scheme. He went into hiding after the scandal broke out and remains an international fugitive.
Ng’s lawyers said the 1MDB embezzlement was “perhaps the single largest heist in the history of the world,” but accused US prosecutors of making Ng a scapegoat for the crimes of others.
In 2020, Goldman Sachs acknowledged its role in the scheme and agreed to pay some $3.9 billion to the government of Malaysia in exchange for dropping criminal charges against the bank.
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