KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 9): Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng Chong Hwa was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) by the High Court on Monday (Jan 9).
Judge Datuk Muhammad Jamil Hussin granted the DNAA after the prosecution asked for it.
Deputy public prosecutor Zaki Asyraf Zubir, in making the submission for the DNAA, told the court that the reason for it was that Ng is still awaiting sentencing in the US.
A DNAA means that Ng is discharged from the charges for the time being, but he can be prosecuted with the same charge again.
Ng was found guilty of bribery and money laundering charges in relation to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal in the US last year.
In April this year, Ng — the only Goldman Sachs banker to go to trial over the 1MDB scandal — was convicted on all three charges by an American jury. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
He was found guilty on two counts of conspiring to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in relation to 1MDB by bribing government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi through bond offerings that Goldman Sachs handled.
He was also convicted on a charge of conspiracy to launder money, following a trial that spanned almost two months.
The former banker had pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his lawyers have said that he would be appealing against the conviction.
The sentencing is now most likely to be given in February.
For the trial before Jamil, Ng is facing charges under the Capital Markets and Services Act 2007 (CMSA).
Ng is facing four counts of violating the CMSA, namely abetting Goldman Sachs in the sale of notes and bonds belonging to 1MDB subsidiaries by omitting material information and publishing untrue statements.
He is charged under Section 370(c) of the CMSA, which carries a punishment of up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of at least RM1 million, upon conviction.
Among material facts allegedly omitted in these bond issuances was the fact that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (Jho Low) was the principal controller and intermediary of 1MDB.
Ng’s lawyers sought a discharge amounting to acquittal
At a previous case management last year, Zaki also informed the court that Ng would most likely be in the US until 2024 to facilitate the appeal process, which would take about a year.
Jamil then said that postponing Ng's criminal trial in Malaysia until after February 2024 would be "too long" and told the prosecution to get instructions from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) on how to proceed with the matter.
With this, at the case management on Monday, the AGC, represented by Zaki, said that it wanted a DNAA because it intended to charge and carry on with the case when Ng is back in Malaysia.
“We have clearly stated that we want to carry on with this case. [But] because the DOJ (US Department of Justice) is taking so long, we are asking for a DNAA,” Zaki said.
However, Ng's Malaysian lawyer Datuk Tan Hock Chuan argued that the case has been hanging over the head of the court for four years now.
“The court has the right to grant [either] a discharge amounting to an acquittal or a DNAA…. We are asking for an outright discharge because this case has been hanging over the court’s head for four years,” he said.
After a brief deliberation, Jamil allowed the DNAA requested by the prosecutors.
“They (the prosecution) said that they are trying to go through with the charges against the accused. It is fitting that a DNAA be granted. I rule that the DNAA be given for all four charges in the case,” he said.
Although Ng is charged with abetment with Goldman Sachs, the charge against the US financial institution was dropped in September 2020, after it agreed to a US$2.5 billion (RM10.9 billion) financial settlement with Malaysia.