PETALING JAYA: An ex-MP has called on a former prime minister, a serving Cabinet minister and the Attorney-General (AG) to give full disclosure of all matters leading up to the entry of a settlement agreement between the government and Goldman Sachs almost three years ago.
“Cabinet minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz and AG Idrus Harun, who are both presently in office, must honour ministerial accountability by giving full assistance to the prime minister on the matter,” said Charles Santiago.
He said former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was at the helm when the deal was cut, is also obliged to provide answers which Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government seeks on the matter.
The former Klang MP said Tengku Zafrul’s accountability remains in place despite a change in leadership and a change in his portfolio.
Tengku Zafrul, who was finance minister in Muhyiddin’s administration, is presently the investment, trade and industry minister in Anwar’s unity government.
“Neither he nor AG Idrus Harun can remain silent as the prime minister himself has publicly questioned the settlement process in Parliament and even in the international media,” Santiago told FMT.
Idrus was nominated to the post by Muhyiddin when he took office as prime minister in March 2020.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV in January this year, Anwar protested the New York-based investment bank’s use of its “financial might” to “dictate terms” with regard to the settlement.
Continued silence not an option
Santiago said that over the past three years, there has been public disquiet over the terms of the settlement agreement which have been “shrouded in secrecy”.
Noting that both Anwar and 1MDB task force chief Johari Ghani have questioned the apparent speed at which the settlement was negotiated and agreed upon, the widely respected DAP stalwart said:
“Tengku Zafrul and AG Idrus’ continued silence on the matter is not an option.”
Last week Johari told FMT he was surprised at how quickly the settlement was reached with Goldman Sachs.
“The principal payment of the bonds was only due in May 2022,” he said, adding that there was “ample time for the government to negotiate”.
Johari said that on June 30, 2020, he met Muhyiddin, Tengku Zafrul and Idrus to discuss bringing a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs in the United States.
On July 3, 2020, he put his proposal in writing to Muhyiddin, who sent it on to Idrus on July 15, 2020.
By July 24, 2020, however, the government had already signed a “Points of Agreement” with Goldman Sachs. A full settlement agreement was executed on Aug 18, 2020.
Last month, Anwar was quoted by Utusan Malaysia as saying that he thought the whole deal had been “rushed through.”
Between 2012 and 2013, Goldman Sachs acted as underwriters for US$6.5 billion raised by 1MDB in three bond issues. The bank earned a massive US$606 million in fees for its services.
Much of the funds raised were siphoned off corruptly in a fraudulent scheme masterminded by Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, two senior Goldman Sachs officers at the time.
The heist left 1MDB with losses of between US$7 billion and US$9.6 billion.
Both Leissner and Ng have since been convicted in a New York criminal court for corrupt practices perpetrated on 1MDB.
The settlement agreement executed on Aug 18, 2020, saw the government and 1MDB recover US$2.5 billion from the bank, inclusive of the US$606 million fee.
The deal includes an obligation on the part of the bank to ensure the recovery of foreign assets traceable to 1MDB funds worth US$1.4bil within five years.
Under the terms of the agreement, the government would be entitled to an interim payment of US$250 million if assets worth US$500 million are not recovered within 24 months.
That deadline expired in August last year without Putrajaya receiving the promised payment after the bank disputed the government’s entitlement to the funds.
Many believe the settlement quantum to be low.
On Feb 27, Johari told the Dewan Rakyat that the country had been shortchanged in the settlement, a statement Anwar agreed to when he spoke in Parliament on March 9. Johari also called on the government to identify and investigate the negotiators who acted for Putrajaya in the matter.
The following day, Anwar appointed Johari 1MDB task force chief.