SHAH ALAM • Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak does not reject the possibility that fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho had cheated the government in its dealings over state fund 1MDB, and has blamed Goldman Sachs, lawyers and auditors for failing to protect the country's interests.
In an interview with Sinar Harian, a Bahasa Malaysia daily, Najib was asked whether he ever saw, from an early stage, the possibility that Low would cause the country to lose billions of ringgit.
"Action must be taken if it's clear that he committed an offence," Najib said in the interview published yesterday. "At that time we had appointed lawyers, auditors and Goldman Sachs, a renowned global investment bank. The responsibility of this bank and all the rest was to protect Malaysia's interests... If they failed to protect Malaysia's interests, how would I know?"
Najib, asked whether this meant that he now admits that Malaysia had been cheated by Low, replied: "Yes, that is the conclusion if we take into account what we know today, then that is the truth."
While serving as prime minister between 2009 and May this year, Najib was also Malaysia's finance minister. He was also chairman of the advisory board of 1MDB, a state development fund.
1MDB was set up in 2009 soon after Najib became prime minister. The 1MDB board was disbanded in May 2016 after the scandal attracted global investigations.
The state fund was saddled with huge debts from purchases of assets such as power plants, and raised eyebrows when it paid Goldman huge fees to sell its bonds. Some of these assets have been sold to firms from mainland China.
1MDB is now controlled by the Pakatan Harapan government, which faces debts and legal issues.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund sued Goldman for allegedly conspiring against the Middle Eastern fund to further a criminal scheme by 1MDB. The suit, filed in a New York court on behalf of Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company, names Goldman as well as former Goldman officials who were charged by the US Justice Department in indictments unsealed earlier this month.
Najib, in the Sinar Harian interview, also said Goldman as well as lawyers and auditors linked to 1MDB's deals should have informed the government that "something was not right". He said: "They clearly failed in carrying out their responsibilities, for example Goldman Sachs. It's proven. The system we created to protect our interests - investment banks, auditors, lawyers and all, they have not played their true role."
The former premier has pleaded not guilty to 25 charges related to abuse of power and money laundering over hundreds of millions of dollars deposited in his personal bank account. The charges include four counts of abuse of power involving RM2.3 billion (S$760 million) of 1MDB monies.
• Additional information from The Star/Asia News Network