Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was in a squalid prison in Malaysia for his role in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal when his New York lawyer gave him a way out.
He persuaded Ng to come to the United States first for trial, rather than wait for the completion of the case in his native Malaysia. He did, and lived in New York free on bond for almost three years.
On Friday, Ng was convicted of conspiring to violate anti-bribery laws and launder money and now faces a possible 30 years in prison.
“I told him you’d be far better off in the United States, where we have a real system and a real trial,” defence lawyer Marc Agnifilo said after the verdict. “I’ve rethought that decision ten thousand times.”
It took its toll. Agnifilo said his client last saw his daughter Victoria when she was six years old, after Malaysia barred Ng’s wife, Lim Hwee Bin, from leaving the country.
Lim was allowed to leave only for the New York trial, after the US gave her a “safe passage” letter agreeing not to prosecute her. She testified in her husband’s defence.
1MDB “is a personal disaster in the life of that family,” Agnifilo said.
Ng, the former Goldman Sachs head of investment banking in Malaysia, had been locked up for six months in Kuala Lumpur when he agreed to waive an extradition fight and travel to Brooklyn in US custody.
On his arrival, he was released on a US$20 million bond and had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to track him while he awaited trial. Following the verdict Friday, he was allowed to remain free pending his sentencing.
Agnifilo, who vowed to challenge the conviction, said he and Ng’s lawyers in Malaysia are coordinating their efforts on his next legal steps.
“I have faith in our system, because I’m from here,” he said. “I think he still does, even though he’s not from here.”