KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is considering initiating legal proceedings against foreign banks linked to the multi-billion dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, the chairman of the 1MDB asset recovery taskforce said on Tuesday (Jan 23).
Johari Abdul Ghani did not identify the foreign banks but said they did not conduct proper due diligence before facilitating fund transfers related to the sovereign fund.
Malaysian and US investigators estimate US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) was stolen from 1MDB, implicating a former Malaysian prime minister, Goldman Sachs staff and high-level officials elsewhere.
In 2021, Malaysia sued units of Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Coutts & Co to recover billions in alleged losses from the fund, though the cases have yet to progress in court.
"The 1MDB task force is firmly committed in addressing the 1MDB matter transparently and holding all parties accountable," Johari said in a statement.
Separately, he added that Malaysia had responded on Nov 8 to an arbitration request by Goldman Sachs, and the two parties were in the process of agreeing on a procedural timetable.
Goldman Sachs in 2020 had agreed to pay US$3.9 billion to settle Malaysia's criminal probe over its role in the scandal.
But the parties are now in disagreement over the settlement, which stipulates that Goldman should make an interim payment if Malaysia did not recover at least US$500 million from the firm by August 2022.
Goldman sued Malaysia in a British court in October last year for the Malaysian government's violation of its obligations to appropriately credit assets against the guarantee provided by Goldman in the settlement agreement and to recover other assets worth US$1.4 billion.
Malaysia has denied the allegations it breached the settlement deal, and on Tuesday accused Goldman Sachs of trying to offset 1MDB fines and settlements recovered from other institutions such as AmBank, and Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) against the US$1.4 billion sum.
Johari said the fines and settlements were not within the scope of Goldman's asset recovery guarantee.
The 1MDB taskforce was also examining whether negotiators and lawyers representing the Malaysian government at the time failed to secure a fair and adequate settlement from Goldman, given the firm's role in the scandal.
Goldman had helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion through bond sales, earning US$600 million in fees, which was "unusually high", Johari said.
"Such lapses on the part of negotiators and lawyers, in failing to negotiate a fair and clear settlement agreement have compromised the government of Malaysia's position in the ongoing dispute," Johari said.