Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his lawyer Marc Agnifilo leave the federal court in New York, U.S., May 6, 2019.
Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his lawyer Marc Agnifilo leave the federal court in New York, U.S., May 6, 2019. Reuters / JEENAH MOON

Closing arguments began on Monday in the U.S. trial of a former Goldman Sachs banker accused of helping loot Malaysia's 1MDB development fund, with a U.S. prosecutor urging jurors not to discount testimony from the government's star witness because he was seeking leniency.

Roger Ng, Goldman's former top investment banker for Malaysia, faces charges he helped his then-boss Tim Leissner embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund, launder the proceeds and bribe officials to win business for Goldman.

Ng, 49, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating an anti-corruption law. Leissner, 52, pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2018 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as their star witness.

In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith acknowledged that Leissner was seeking leniency by testifying, but jurors need not rely solely on his testimony.

"What he told you about the crimes he committed with the defendant and others is backed up by and consistent with other evidence," Smith said. "You already know the defendant is guilty from the other evidence in the case."

The nearly two-month trial stemmed from one of the biggest financial scandals in history.

U.S. prosecutors have said Goldman helped 1MDB raise $6.5 billion through three bond sales, but that $4.5 billion was diverted to government officials, bankers and their associates through bribes and kickbacks.

Ng is the first, and likely only, person to face trial in the United States over the scheme. Goldman in 2020 paid a nearly $3 billion fine and its Malaysian unit agreed to plead guilty.

Marc Agnifilo, a lawyer for Ng, has said his client introduced Leissner to Malaysian financier Jho Low, the scheme's suspected mastermind, but Ng had no role in looting 1MDB.

Prosecutors countered that Ng sought to hide Low's involvement from Goldman because bank officials were suspicious.

Smith said Ng discussed 1MDB deals several times through his personal email account, a violation of Goldman's rules.

"There was no reason for him to be forwarding Goldman documents to his personal account," Smith said.

Leissner testified that he sent Ng $35 million in kickbacks with the men agreeing to tell banks processing the transfers a "cover story" that the money was from a legitimate business venture between their wives.

Ng's wife, Hwee Bin Lim, testified last week that she invested $6 million in the mid-2000s in a Chinese company owned by the family of Leissner's then-wife, Judy Chan.

She said the $35 million in alleged kickbacks to Ng were in fact her return on that investment.

Low was indicted in 2018 alongside Ng, and remains at large. Malaysian authorities say Low is in China, which Beijing denies.