Ex-Goldman Sachs banker denied bail in Malaysia pending extradition to U.S.

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Malaysian court on Monday refused bail to former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, pending his extradition to the United States where he faces charges related to suspected money laundering of funds siphoned off from state fund 1MDB.

Ng has been detained in Kuala Lumpur since Nov. 1, shortly after the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against him, another Goldman Sachs official Tim Leissner, and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho over the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Leissner, a former partner for Goldman Sachs in Asia, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, while Low has denied wrongdoing and remains at large.

Malaysian prosecutors have filed separate criminal charges against the three, as well as an application to extradite Ng to the United States.

Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Defense lawyer Tan Hock Chuan last week requested that Ng be released on bail on medical grounds, pending the outcome of the extradition proceeding.

Judge Edwin Paramjothy Michael Muniandy, however, dismissed the request on Monday saying there was insufficient evidence that Ng was not fit enough to remain in custody.

The judge said the court also considered Ng a serious flight risk, given the gravity and high-profile nature of the cases against him in Malaysia and the United States.

“With the likelihood that the respondent will abscond, I’m of the considered view that the respondent’s presence (in court) cannot be secured by the setting of bail or the setting of any condition to the granting of bail,” he said.

Tan said he would appeal the judge’s ruling and that a reply against Ng’s extradition would be filed by Feb. 15.

According to prosecutors, Goldman Sachs generated about $600 million in fees for its work with 1MDB, which included three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised $6.5 billion.

Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

Goldman Sachs has denied wrongdoing saying certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to the bank about the proceeds of bond sales.

The Malaysian government has said it is seeking up to $7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman Sachs over its dealings with 1MDB.

The U.S. Justice Department has estimated that a total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

The 1MDB scandal erupted in 2015, and led to last year’s electoral defeat of Najib Razak, ending his near decade long stint as prime minister.

The new government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reopened investigations into 1MDB and charged Najib, who is now facing four trials involving a total of 39 criminal charges related to the fund’s losses.

He has plead not guilty to all charges.

In a separate court on Monday, a judge fixed July 8 for the opening of one of those trials.

Najib, along with his former treasury chief Mohamad Irwan Serigar Abdullah, were each charged with six counts of criminal breach of trust in the case, which involves the alleged misappropriation of about $1.5 billion in government funds.

Prosecutors have prepared a list of 138 witnesses for the trial, which is scheduled to run until Aug. 22, government lawyer Jamil Aripin told the court.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel