Ex-AG suggested govt settle Goldman Sachs case out of court, says finance minister

Tommy Thomas was keen on an out of court settlement over the 1MDB debts with US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

KUALA LUMPUR: Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz today revealed that the previous government was keen on an out of court settlement over the 1MDB debts with US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

He told the Dewan Rakyat of a letter dated Feb 11, 2020, where former attorney-general Tommy Thomas had told former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Goldman Sachs had agreed to increase its offer to US$1.75 billion.

“This includes taxes of US$164 million and return of the fees of US$567 million Goldman received.”

He added that the former AG had suggested that ways be found to settle the matter out of court.

“This is different with his statement that the PN government should not accept the out of court settlement,” he added.

Zafrul said a Dec 13, 2019 record showed the previous government had offered a settlement of US$4 billion to Goldman Sachs.

“But the offer was rejected by Goldman Sachs. They counter offered US$1.5 billion.”

Recently it was reported that Goldman Sachs had reached a US$3.9 billion settlement with the Malaysian government over the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.The deal includes a $2.5 billion cash payout by Goldman and a guarantee by the bank to return at least $1.4 billion in assets linked to 1MDB bonds, Malaysia’s finance ministry had said in a statement.

Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) then asked if this meant the previous administration was not telling the truth.

Tony Pua (PH-Damansara) stood up to ask if in the February letter Thomas had suggested that the government accept the US$1.75 billion settlement.

“As far as I know, PH had rejected the offer,” Pua said.

Pua also disagreed with Zafrul that Thomas had suggested the matter be settled out of court.

Pua explained that Thomas had said the best time to settle out of court would be after Goldman Sachs and its directors were brought to court to face allegations.

“I quote from his statement ‘that gives us the maximum leverage to obtain the highest compensation from Goldman Sachs’,” Pua said.

On the US$1.4 billion in assets guarantees mentioned by Zafrul, Pua said an announcement was made by Golden Sachs in the New York Stock Exchange that it would not pay any money for the guarantees.

“This means we do not have any additional US$1.4 billion from Goldman Sachs,” Pua said.

Zafrul replied that the previous government had registered a criminal case against Goldman Sachs and 17 of its directors.

“But till today none of the directors have been charged in court. If the charges were in Malaysia, all the 17 directors would need to be extradited to Malaysia.This process was not done when he (Thomas) was the AG,” said Zafrul.

On the US$1.4 billion guarantees given by Goldman Sachs, Zafrul said there was no assurance the value of the frozen assets would be the same as before.

“This is clear. When Malaysia was trying to get back (monies from) the Equanimity yacht worth US$250 million, we only received US$120 million.”

He said there was no assurance that Malaysia would get back the full value of items related to the 1MDB scandal.