1MDB trial to pause for defense to study new documents
The bribery and money laundering trial of a former Goldman Sachs executive has been turned upside down after federal prosecutors – for the second time in just over a week – said the government failed to quickly deliver thousands of pages of emails and other personal documents. belonging to a key prosecution witness.
The federal judge presiding over Roger Ng’s trial in Brooklyn said Wednesday that the government’s failure to produce documents was “particularly troubling” and would cause a delay in the proceedings so that defense attorneys have time to review the charges. additional documents.
“I’m going to give the defense all the time they need,” Judge Margo K. Brodie, Chief Judge for the Eastern District of New York, said during a brief hearing with the jury.
She made her decision after Marc Agnifilo, one of Mr Ng’s lawyers, said he was considering asking the judge to declare a mistrial. He added that he could ask for the charges against his client to be dismissed due to what he called “government misconduct”.
Judge Brodie gave no insight into how she might rule on these claims. But a mistrial would be a shocking development in the case, 16 months after Goldman pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and paid $5 billion in fines for his role in a massive bribery and bribery scheme. wine involving a major Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
Mr Ng, who was a banker for Goldman in Malaysia, is likely the only person to stand trial in the United States over the scandal, as the mastermind of the scheme – Jho Low – is a fugitive and is believed to live in China.
In a letter filed in court on Tuesday evening, federal prosecutors said they have just become aware that approximately 15,000 emails and other documents belonging to star government witness Timothy Leissner were never turned over to the defense. . They added that the late discovery of these documents was an “inexcusable error” and that they risked a postponement of the trial, which began on February 14.
Prosecutors blamed the problem on another team of government lawyers tasked with reviewing the documents to ensure they could be provided to defense attorneys without violating any of Mr Leissner’s rights. A similar problem arose after the trial began when the government belatedly turned over 120,000 pages of emails and other documents belonging to Mr. Leissner, a former Goldman partner.
“We’re still going over the 120,000 pages we have,” Agnifilo said. “It’s an categorical failure.”
The break is expected to last several days after Mr. Leissner completes his direct testimony. He agreed to cooperate with the government and pleaded guilty in 2018 to his part in the brazen scheme to loot more than $4 billion from Malaysia’s 1MDB fund. He also agreed to give up about $47 million in ill-gotten gains and is expected to be sentenced this summer.
Since last week, Mr. Leissner has presented the details of the project to the jury. He testified that he and Mr. Ng played a vital role in the plot to use some of the looted money to bribe foreign officials so that Goldman would obtain the rights to organize 6, $5 million in bonds for the 1MDB fund.
He testified that he and Mr. Ng were at a meeting in 2012 where Mr. Low described the plan to pay bribes. Mr Leissner said Mr Low, a flamboyant Malaysian businessman with a penchant for the high life, told former Goldman executives they would be “taken care of”.
Mr. Leissner also testified that he used $10 million of looted 1MDB money to buy a house for a former girlfriend. He said he bought the house to prevent the girlfriend from alerting the authorities to his activities.
Prosecutors claimed that Mr. Ng and his wife obtained up to $35 million in illicit proceeds through the scheme. But Mr Agnifilo said the money came from unrelated legitimate transactions. He said the $35 million was owed to Mr. Ng’s wife by Mr. Leissner’s ex-wife, Judy Chan, who owns a large vineyard in China.
Mr. Agnifilo said the documents the government had been slow to produce could be vital to his client’s defense. He said Covid-19 restrictions had limited his ability to pursue investigative leads in Asia.