Malaysia, Goldman discuss dropping 1MDB charges

Malaysia's finance minister had said in January the government would be ready to discuss dropping criminal charges against Goldman Sachs if it agreed to pay US$7.5 billion in reparations.
Malaysia's finance minister had said in January the government would be ready to discuss dropping criminal charges against Goldman Sachs if it agreed to pay US$7.5 billion in reparations.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia is open to more talks with Goldman Sachs, after two rounds of discussions to drop criminal charges against three units of the United States bank over the 1MDB scandal, the country's top prosecutor told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Malaysian and US investigators say about US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) was misappropriated from the now-defunct state investment fund 1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Berhad, set up in 2009 by former prime minister Najib Razak.

Last year, Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs over its role as underwriter and arranger of three bond sales that raised US$6.5 billion for 1MDB. Prosecutors in August filed criminal charges against 17 current and former directors at its units.

Malaysia had a strong case and was very confident of winning, Nikkei yesterday cited Attorney-General Tommy Thomas as saying. He said criminal charges and settlement talks were taking place. "A lot of cases are settled even after the trial begins. So the doors for discussion are still open while the prosecution readies the criminal case."

Tan Sri Thomas and officials in his office were not immediately available for comment. No date has been set for the criminal trial yet.

Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said in January that the government would be ready to discuss dropping criminal charges against Goldman Sachs if it agreed to pay US$7.5 billion in reparations.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman declined to comment. The bank said on Tuesday that it was in talks with governmental and regulatory authorities on the possibility of a resolution of investigations relating to 1MDB.

Najib, who lost a general election last year, is facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received about US$1 billion in 1MDB funds. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mr Thomas said the government has estimated that fugitive financier Jho Low, who investigators have named as a key figure in the scandal, stole more than US$10 billion from 1MDB but that it would be impossible to recover the full amount embezzled.

 

Low has consistently denied wrongdoing and a spokesman for him said in July that "illegitimate proceedings" had been brought by the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and that their outcome was "preordained and politically motivated".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia, Goldman discuss dropping 1MDB charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe