NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for a former Goldman Sachs banker charged with involvement in the looting of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund accused U.S. prosecutors on Thursday of withholding evidence that could show his client’s innocence.
Roger Ng, the former head of investment banking for Goldman Sachs Malaysia, also pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court to an amended indictment filed late Wednesday accusing him of conspiring to violate an anti-bribery law and launder money.
The plea followed Goldman’s Oct. 22 agreement to pay $2.9 billion in penalties and have a Malaysian unit admit criminal wrongdoing to settle probes by the Department of Justice and other authorities into its role in 1MDB.
Ng’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo said it was not until Nov. 13, or 18 months after his client agreed to leave Malaysia to face the charges, that prosecutors revealed a slew of new evidence provided by Goldman lawyers during the bank’s own dealings with the government.
He accused prosecutors of waiting until Goldman “put $2.9 billion in the government’s pocket” before disclosing materials that among other things suggested Ng may not have violated the bank’s accounting procedures.
Agnifilo said it was “a troubling issue” that prosecutors withheld “evidence that our client did not commit some of these crimes.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith responded that “we do not agree with the defense’s characterization of these materials,” but prosecutors would in good faith turn over potentially exculpatory evidence.
Goldman helped sell $6.5 billion of bonds for 1MDB, a fund former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had launched to promote economic development.
Authorities said fund officials and accomplices looted some of the money to spend on luxuries and the financing of Hollywood films, while Goldman bankers paid more than $1.6 billion in bribes to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi for 1MDB business.
Tim Leissner, another former Goldman banker, pleaded guilty in 2018 over his role in the scandal. He has not been sentenced.
The case is U.S. v. Ng, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 18-cr-00538.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)