The prosecution’s star witness accused of testifying against Roger Ng to save himself.
A lawyer for former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Roger Ng assailed Ng’s former boss and the government’s star witness, Tim Leissner, as a “double bigamist” who was testifying against Ng only to save himself.
“Tim Leissner uses people,” defense lawyer Marc Agnifilo told jurors Monday in his opening statement in Ng’s federal conspiracy trial. He said Leissner was “married to two different women at the same time, twice” and that he had an “illicit” relationship with an executive of the Malaysian fund Ng is accused of helping loot.
Ng is charged with conspiring to violate US anti-money-laundering law in a scheme to siphon billions of dollars from the fund, known as 1MDB. He is the only former Goldman Sachs employee to stand trial in the US for a scandal that stretched from Singapore to Hollywood to Wall Street.
Agnifilo told the jury, in Brooklyn, New York, that Leissner “uses women, he uses false intimacy, and now he’s trying to use my client to get him to do his jail time.” He also said Leissner was having an affair with Jasmine Loo, then general counsel for 1MDB, and that the two had “a dark trust because of their illicit, intimate romantic relationship.”
He warned the jury to question Leissner’s credibility when Ng’s former boss takes the stand, saying he repeatedly forged documents, including divorce papers when he was accused of being a bigamist.
And he said the FBI got Leissner to make secret recordings with others about the scheme but that he was never able to catch Ng in a crime.
“There’s no recording of Roger,” Agnifilo told the panel. “Not one.”
Earlier, in opening statements by the government, federal prosecutor Brent Wible told jurors that Ng had reaped $35 million in what he called a “brazen” scam.
Wible said Ng secretly agreed with Leissner and Malaysian businessman Jho Low to help take hundreds of millions of dollars raised for three bond transactions tied to 1MDB originally designed for projects in Malaysia.
“This was a scheme to steal $1 billion,” Wible said in his opening. “The defendant Roger Ng saw an opportunity to get rich by cheating.” The trio paid bribes to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to “look the other way,” he said
Agnifilo painted a very different picture for the jurors, hammering away at Leissner, who he said “started out in life as immoral.”
“Low sets Leissner’s immorality on fire,” he told them.
Their partnership prompted the star banker to pursue a high-flying life of luxury like Low and to seek out money to buy private planes, yachts, and homes in Beverly Hills, just like the Malaysian financier, Agnifilo said.
Leissner bought homes “for all the women in his life” and became a “mini version of Low,” he said. The banker later married former model and clothing executive Kimora Lee Simmons, he said.
“He blames it all on Kimora,” he said. “Watch how many people he blames. But the blame is on Leissner and Leissner alone.”
Andy Tai, a managing director at Goldman Sachs who worked on the 1MDB transactions with Leissner and Ng, was the government’s first witness. Tai said Goldman compliance officials repeatedly asked whether Low or Datuk Seri Najib Razak, then Malaysia’s prime minister, was involved in the transactions.
He said Leissner assured them that neither man had played a role in the transactions. Najib was convicted in a Malaysian court for his role in the 1MDB scandal.
Low was charged along with Ng by the US and is a fugitive. Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have levelled allegations of securities law violations against Leissner, Ng, Low and Loo. Loo hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the US.
Tai continues his testimony Tuesday. The trial is expected to last as long as six weeks.