KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia intends to recover all funds illicitly taken from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and determine whether there are grounds for claims against companies, including Goldman Sachs, that profited from dealing with the beleaguered state fund.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that a plan was "on the table" to ask all individuals and political parties to return money that came from 1MDB, which was allegedly used as a slush fund by former prime minister Najib Razak.
Having defeated his former protege in an election last month, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's administration has launched an investigation into how the fund founded by Datuk Seri Najib lost billions of dollars.
Mr Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and repeated earlier this week that he did not benefit or steal money from 1MDB. He was in 2016 cleared of any wrongdoing by the former attorney-general.
Reuters yesterday cited sources saying that the Malaysian authorities are considering charging the former prime minister with money laundering and misappropriation of property.
Mr Najib may be charged with dishonest misappropriation of property under the Malaysian Penal Code, which carries a maximum jail sentence of five years, a fine and whipping. The law forbids, however, men over the age of 50 years from being whipped.
NOT JUST UMNO
To be fair, Umno is not the only political party that received money. Those who have taken money from 1MDB should return it to the country.
FINANCE MINISTER LIM GUAN ENG
He may also face money-laundering charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years' jail and a fine of no less than five times the value of the laundered proceeds.
Mr Lim said the government would also scrutinise the US$600 million (S$808 million) paid in fees to Goldman Sachs for raising nearly US$6.5 billion in three bond sales between 2012 and 2013 for 1MDB. Critics said the fees earned from those bond issues were far in excess of the normal 1 per cent to 2 per cent fees a bank could expect.
"We will be looking at the possibility of seeking claims from Goldman Sachs, where there are grounds to do so... definitely," Mr Lim told Reuters.
Reuters had reported last week, citing sources familiar with the issue, that Malaysia is considering asking the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to get Goldman Sachs to return fees earned from the bond issues.
Civil lawsuits filed in 2016 by the DOJ alleged that over US$2.5 billion raised from those bonds were misappropriated by high-level 1MDB officials, their relatives and associates.
Mr Lim also said Malaysia will look at the conduct of other banks involved in 1MDB transactions. "We've got to see the nexus, whether they were at fault."
He said Umno, the party Mr Najib had led until his election defeat and from which Tun Dr Mahathir resigned in order to join the opposition, was not the only party to have received 1MDB money.
"To be fair, Umno is not the only political party that received money," Mr Lim said. "Those who have taken money from 1MDB should return it to the country."
Mr Lim said the DOJ and enforcement agencies in several other countries were giving strong cooperation to Malaysia's efforts to recoup 1MDB funds, and bring prosecutions.
Mr Lim said one option being considered was to monetise assets acquired with 1MDB funds that the US authorities are looking to seize under its anti-kleptocracy programme.
The DOJ is seeking to seize US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with funds stolen from 1MDB, including a Picasso painting, shares in a Hollywood production company, a yacht and nearly US$200 million in jewellery.
Last month, Malaysian police said that cash worth RM114 million (S$38.4 million), jewellery and over 400 luxury handbags were seized from several apartments linked to Mr Najib, as part of their probe into 1MDB.
Mr Lim said his ministry is also investigating several "highly suspicious" deals made by Mr Najib's administration to determine if they were carried out to help pay for 1MDB dues.