All parties involved in 1MDB corruption scandal will be dealt by the country’s rule of law
By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By AFP
Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed yesterday that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has promised to return the bulk of the billions siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
The US prosecutors estimated that about US$4.5 billion (RM18.87 billion) had been embezzled from the state-owned fund through a web of suspicious transfers and dealings.
Much of the money had been laundered to purchase luxury properties in London and New York, a state-of-the-art yacht and valuable paintings.
Some of these assets, including a painting by Vincent van Gogh and two others by Claude Monet, had been seized by the US authorities, while Malaysia has taken ownership of the 300ft, RM1 billion superyacht Equanimity.
Dr Mahathir said the government is looking to recover most of the billions stolen as reported by the DoJ.
“We hope to get most (of it), but much of the money could have been lost along the way,” he told reporters in Singapore yesterday.
But the PM said the process will not be as fast as what people would want.
“The (repatriation) process will take a little bit of time…in the first place, you will have to provide proof that the money is yours.
“Once you do that, there will be a process to go through. But the DoJ has promised that they will give back the money,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also stressed that all parties involved in the 1MDB’s corruption scandal and money trail will be dealt by the country’s rule of law.
In an interview with CNBC in Singapore yesterday, Dr Mahathir said the bankers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc — the US investment bank that helped raised billions for 1MDB — had cheated Malaysia.
Goldman Sachs, which is under scrutiny of the US authorities, had pocketed US$600 million as commission from the billions raised through three 1MDB-related debt papers with a total value of US$6.5 billion.
“There is evidence that Goldman Sachs had done things that were wrong,” Dr Mahathir said in the interview with CNBC. “Obviously, we have been cheated through the compliance of Goldman Sachs people.”
Early this month, US prosecutors filed criminal charges against two former Goldman Sachs bankers and fugitive Low Taek Jho, or popularly known as Jho Low, for corruption and conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB.
Former Goldman Sachs banker Ng Chong Hwa, also known as Roger Ng, and Tim Leissner were named in the indictment.
Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Ng was arrested in Malaysia and is said to be fighting his extradition to the US.
The indictment was the first criminal procedure related to the 1MDB scandal, which is being investigated in six countries.
Dr Mahathir said the rule of law must prevail in relation to the scandal.
“We believe in the rule of law. If the law says that somebody has committed a crime, that he should be accordingly punished according to the process of law. It doesn’t matter who…It can be Goldman Sachs or whoever.
“If they are found to have broken the law and there is sufficient evidence, then we will take action according to the law. It’s not revenge, but it’s the question about rule of law,” he said.
Malaysia is also trying to get Goldman Sachs to return the US$600 million commission as part of its efforts to recover all the monies related to the fund.
Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim called for “more aggressive” actions to secure the compensation from Goldman Sachs.
Port Dickson MP said the US has initiated prosecution and Malaysia should also take action to demand the return of the US$600 million commission received by the American investment bank.
“We must claim not only the commission. Malaysia must also claim compensation for our damaged reputation. I believe the government should take this measure to secure a quantum far bigger than the commission given to Goldman Sachs,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had said that Malaysia is seeking a full refund of all the fees paid for the 1MDB deals.