Malaysian finance minister hopes for ‘boring democracy’ with no financial scandals

Malaysian finance minister hopes for ‘boring democracy’ with no financial scandals

KUALA LUMPUR: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said he hopes Malaysia can be a “normal, boring democracy”, without the financial scandals associated with state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In a wide ranging interview with CNN on Monday (Jan 14), Mr Lim also said it was “very reasonable” to seek US$7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman Sachs over its dealings with 1MDB.

READ: 1MDB scandal: A timeline

“We want Malaysians, especially, to hold their heads up high and (know) that Malaysia is no longer a global kleptocracy. We are now a normal, boring democracy.”

“I want (Malaysia) to be a normal, boring democracy where there are no financial scandals, no more 1MDB, no more Jho Low, no more former prime minister (Najib Razak),” he said.

Huge sums of public money were purportedly stolen from 1MDB and used to buy everything from yachts to artwork in a scheme that allegedly involved Najib and contributed to his government's shock election defeat in May 2018.

READ: Goldman Sachs CEO: I feel horrible ex-bankers broke law in 1MDB case

Goldman Sach's role is under scrutiny for reportedly helping arrange US$6.5 billion in three bond sales for 1MDB, with Kuala Lumpur accusing the bank and its former employees of misappropriating billions of dollars.

Ng Chong Hwa, a Malaysian former managing director at the bank, was indicted over the controversy in November in the United States - investigators believe stolen cash was laundered through the US financial system – and US authorities are seeking to extradite him. Ng has claimed trial.

Last month, Malaysian prosecutors filed charges against Goldman Sachs in connection with its role as underwriter and arranger of the three bond sales, the first criminal action against the US bank over the scandal.

In addition to the total value of the bonds, Goldman Sachs should also return US$1 billion to cover US$600 million in fees and commissions for the deal and bond coupons that were "higher than the market rate", said the Malaysian government.

The bank has only set aside US$1.8 billion to cover potential losses related to 1MDB legal proceedings.

Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to the bank about the proceeds of the bond sales.

READ: Goldman Sachs CEO defends bank in 1MDB scandal

In his interview, Mr Lim said the incident was the act of an institution rather than a few individuals.

“How can you disclaim responsibility when you collected such a huge amount of fees, and at the same time you were, of course, broadcasting the fact that you were representing Malaysia. I don’t think they can run away so easily,” he said.

"We will do whatever it takes to ensure that justice is done. And that Malaysia will try to get as much of our money back.”

Source: Agencies/CNA/aw(aj)