Status of 1MDB’s case against IPIC, Pua asks

It is paramount for Hishamuddin to divulge the details of the court proceedings to safeguard Malaysians’ interest

pic by TMR FILE

OPPOSITION lawmaker Tony Pua (picture) is asking the Perikatan Nasional government if it has stopped court proceedings in London between 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC).

The Damansara MP was “shocked” to learn that the current administration has decided to halt the court proceedings against Abu Dhabi’s IPIC and urged Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to clarify on the matter.

“Hishammuddin has been tasked to negotiate directly with the Abu Dhabi government for ‘another’ settlement,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“With the litany of quick and sometimes bewildering settlements by the government in cases relating to 1MDB, Malaysians are now concerned that we are once again being taken for a ride.

“Hishammuddin must immediately address these concerns, failing which, the suit against IPIC must be allowed to complete its course to ensure the best possible outcome for the people,” he added.

A recent news report stated that the US$3.5 billion (RM14.77 billion) case against IPIC has been quietly put on hold as both parties have agreed to opt for “a cosy negotiated deal instead”.

Prior to that, the case has been put on hold by Judge Robin Knowles to allow further arbitration.

The stay will allow the second round of arbitration, brought by IPIC and its Aabar Investments PJS unit against 1MDB, to go ahead, Knowles said in the judgment.

“This is one of the rare and compelling cases where a temporary case management stay is appropriate for the time being and subject to review at any appropriate point,” the judge said.

To recall, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had in 2018 filed a suit in London against IPIC to unwind a settlement arrived between them and 1MDB on May 31, 2017.

“Under the settlement, which was reached with the intervention of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, IPIC will be repaid the total of US$1.21 trillion by Dec 31, 2017, for the advances it made to 1MDB in June 2015.

“Separately, 1MDB and Ministry of Finance Inc had to assume responsibility for all future interest and principal payments under the two bonds issued by 1MDB, amounting to US$3.5 billion, which were previously guaranteed by IPIC,” Pua said.

He noted the settlement effectively placed the entire burden of repayment for the fraudulent bonds on 1MDB and the government, and completely absolved IPIC of any obligations.

“The PH government had sought to unwind the settlement agreement because we believed it was fraudulently concluded by Najib, at the expense of Malaysian tax-payers.

“This is because Najib had a vested interest in ensuring the 1MDB scandal remained contained, without further incriminating him and the Barisan Nasional government in the multibillion ringgit brewing scandal,” he added.

By November 2019, the PH government had succeeded in winning the case in the UK Court of Appeal to ensure the case against IPIC would be contested in an open court, instead of via closed-door arbitration.

“IPIC had preferred closed-door arbitration to ensure the unsavoury details of the entire bond issuance, which was arranged by Goldman Sachs Group Inc, remained under wraps.

“The strategy by former Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was to ensure Malaysians will receive the maximum possible compensation from IPIC for the losses 1MDB had suffered in their sham ‘collaboration’,” Pua said.

In an outline of the case, Thomas said Najib was “principally responsible” for consenting to the US$5.78 billion awards and he “could not possibly have acted in the best interests of his country and his company”.

The London case is one of a series of legal and regulatory probes around the world surrounding 1MDB, a government investment company that took shape in 2009, supposedly to promote development.

The US Justice Department said more than US$4.5 billion flowed from the fund through fraudulent shell companies to corrupt officials and their associates.

Pua’s concern came after Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, Najib’s stepson, in May was discharged not amounting to an acquittal over a 1MDB-related money laundering case which had amounted to US$248 million, and Goldman Sachs reaching a settlement to compensate the government the amount of US$2.5 billion, instead of the US$7.5 billion which the PH government had demanded.

“Both suits, which the PH government had initiated against Goldman Sachs and its 17 past and present directors, were immediately dropped before they were brought to court.

“Global financial media have generally believed that Goldman Sachs got away cheap and easy for their role in arranging US$6.5 billion of bonds for 1MDB. In fact, The New York Post reported that Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon immediately celebrated the settlement as a DJ at the Hamptons,” he said.

Pua said given the dubious track record the current administration has in reaching settlements, the interests of ordinary Malaysians will once again be betrayed.