US prosecutor of Huawei’s CFO counts 1MDB fugitive Jho Low and Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ among his high-profile cases

The United States prosecutor who is seeking to extradite Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou is the same man pursuing criminal charges against both fugitive financier Jho Low in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious Mexican drug kingpin known as “El Chapo.”

Richard P. Donoghue was named US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in January, returning to the office where he cut his teeth prosecuting members of the MS-13 street gang, white collar criminals and corrupt politicians.

Since coming back, he has inherited several criminal and civil cases that have international implications.

Donoghue’s office is seeking the extradition of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, to the US on fraud charges related to alleged breaches of US and EU sanctions on Iran, in a case that has enraged China and further strained relations between the world’s two biggest economies. A Canadian court ordered her release on bail on Wednesday.

In October, Donoghue’s office accused a Long Island man of threatening to kill two US senators over their support for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court.

A month later, it brought criminal conspiracy charges against Malaysia’s most wanted man, Jho Low, and Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs banker, in connection with the embezzlement and laundering of assets from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB.

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That same month, it filed a civil fraud case against the Swiss bank UBS over the sale of mortgage-backed securities ahead of the global financial crisis.

Donoghue’s team is also handling the ongoing trial of Guzmán, the Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo and alleged head of the infamous Sinaloa cartel. Guzmán, who had previously escaped from one of Mexico’s most secure prisons through a secret tunnel, was captured in 2016 and extradited to the US last year.

Before his return to the Eastern District, Donoghue had spent seven years as a senior vice-president and chief litigation counsel at CA Technologies, a Long Island software company that was acquired by Broadcom for US$18.9 billion last year.

He is one of two federal prosecutors who oversee criminal cases in New York City and the surrounding area. The Eastern District includes Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, as well as John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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In the office, Donoghue oversees 115 assistant US lawyers in its criminal division and 60 lawyers in its civil division.

The Eastern District, before Donoghue rejoined the office, brought criminal fraud charges against Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive who became infamous after dramatically raising the price of Daraprim, a drug used by HIV patients.

Shkreli was convicted of fraud charges last year related to two hedge funds he ran and sentenced to seven years in prison in March, within months of Donoghue taking over.

In July, the Eastern District was part of a settlement in which Credit Suisse agreed to pay US$77 million in penalties in what prosecutors said was a scheme to win banking business by hiring the friends and family of Chinese officials.

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A graduate of the St. John’s University School of Law and a former Army paratrooper, Donoghue began his legal career while on active duty in the US Army Judge Advocate General Corps.

He joined the US Attorney’s office in 2000, where he was an assistant US attorney and later chief of its criminal division.

Donoghue was appointed as interim US Attorney in January, but was not formally nominated by US President Donald Trump. In May, Chief Judge Dora L. Irizarry said Donoghue would remain in the position until a permanent appointment is nominated by Trump and confirmed by the US Senate.

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Then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited Donoghue’s prior experience in prosecuting members of the MS-13 in appointing him to the role. Trump has repeatedly invoked MS-13 as a justification for his aggressive immigration policies.

“Every MS-13 member in Long Island should know, Richard Donoghue will use all the tools at his disposal to get criminals off our streets,” Sessions said at the time.

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