US starts returning 1MDB funds to Malaysia
More than US$57 million given back in first instalment; ex-Goldman Sachs banker pleads not guilty to 1MDB charges
The US government has returned more than US$57 million (S$78 million) to Malaysia, the first instalment of funds recovered from asset seizures related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the Malaysian Attorney-General's Chambers said.
Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said this sum was forfeited from Red Granite Pictures, a US-based film production company linked to former prime minister Najib Razak and his stepson Riza Aziz.
He said this arose from a US$60 million settlement recorded before the court of California, with a deduction of about US$3 million made to reimburse costs incurred by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating, seizing, litigating and securing settlement for the Red Granite funds.
Mr Thomas said Malaysia has recovered US$322 million worth of 1MDB assets since investigations into 1MDB effectively began after the 14th General Election in May last year.
In another development related to 1MDB, former Goldman Sachs Group banker Roger Ng pleaded not guilty to criminal charges linked to the multi-billion-dollar scandal at the Malaysian state investment fund. This came in an appearance at federal court in New York on Monday.
The DOJ accused 46-year-old Ng last year of conspiring to launder money and bribe government officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates through bond offerings that Goldman Sachs handled.
He was extradited on May 3 to New York from Kuala Lumpur, where he had been jailed since November.
US Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, of District Court in Brooklyn, New York, allowed Ng, a Malaysian citizen, to be released in exchange for a US$20 million bond.
He will be wearing an ankle bracelet and staying at an undisclosed location in the New York City area that the court approved.
His lawyer, Mr Marc Agnifilo, said he convinced Ng to "come to the US and face the music" because it was evident that prosecutors were not going to drop the case and his client had become ill.
Ng appears to have lost weight, based on photos of him before his arrest.
"He was in a very difficult situation," Mr Agnifilo told reporters.
Being detained in New York "is better than a Malaysian jail", he added.
Ng, who left Goldman Sachs in 2014, faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of the three charges against him in the US, based on alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Prosecutors and Ng's lawyer are trying to negotiate a plea bargain. Government lawyers said they hope to avoid a trial by reaching a deal, though Mr Agnifilo said it was too early to tell.
Malaysia wanted Ng to face criminal charges there first, but agreed to temporarily surrender him to the US for 10 months, Mr Thomas said in a statement. - THE STAR, REUTERS
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