Opening statements began Monday in the federal trial of Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs executive charged in a multibillion dollar theft and bribery scheme revolving around a Malaysian state investment fund, reports the Associated Press. The fund, called 1MDB, was started by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to fuel Malaysia's economic development, but was soon misused. Using bond sales orchestrated by Goldman Sachs, Najib was able to steal and launder billions of dollars using the fund. In 2018, the scandal brought down his government. Two years later he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his involvement. The Malaysian financier authorities believe to be the plan's mastermind, Low Taek Jho, is at large.
Despite the fact that a Goldman Sachs subsidiary admitted to "willfully" violating anti-bribery laws in the 1MDB case and agreed to pay $2.9 billion to authorities, Ng is the only Goldman executive to be charged. Ng's attorneys contend this is because Ng has been made a scapegoat for more widespread corporate behavior, which they contend allowed the fraud to occur. They say Ng warned his superiors about dealing with Low Taek Jho in 2010, and that he stated Jho was not to be trusted. Federal prosecutors claim that Ng conspired with Low Taek Jho to launder funds in the U.S. financial system, and that he was a key part of a scheme that involved bribing foreign officials using laundered money. Authorities say Ng was personally enriched by his role in the scheme, evidenced by spending on jewels, art, a yacht, and real estate. Former Goldman banker Tim Leissner, who in 2018 admitted bribing government officials in Malaysia, is expected to testify against Ng.