KUALA LUMPUR: Former attorney general Tommy Thomas sought to negotiate for a higher settlement with Goldman Sachs, says Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.
According to Tengku Zafrul, negotiations to seek an out-of-court settlement began after Goldman Sachs had rejected a RM4bil settlement sought by the former Pakatan Harapan administration, but instead made a counter-offer of RM1.5bil as settlement.
“The latest and which has not been revealed before is a letter dated Feb 11 where Thomas informed the former prime minister that Goldman Sachs had agreed to increase its offer to RM1.75bil.
“This amount includes paying RM164mil in taxes and returning fees paid totalling RM567mil," he said during his winding up speech in Parliament on Thursday (Aug 6).
He said the letter contradicted the former attorney general’s assertion that the Perikatan Nasional government should not have accepted the out-of-court settlement.
“At all material times, the former AG was also seeking a settlement with Goldman Sachs. It is therefore disingenuous for him to say that we should not do what he wanted to do in the first place.”
This then triggered a shouting match among Opposition MPs, where Damansara MP Tony Pua stood up, saying that the previous administration had rejected Goldman Sachs' offer.
“Thomas had previously said he never made the statement that the government should not agree to an out-of-court settlement.”
Pua said what the former AG had advised the government was that Goldman Sachs, who were involved in the scandal, should be charged in court first.
“That gives us the maximum leverage to obtain the highest compensation from Goldman Sachs, ” he added.
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng subsequently questioned whether the US$2.5bil (RM10.5bil) cash payment and US$1.4bil in the form of guarantees in assets, were approved by Cabinet.
“Is this a decision made by one or two persons, or the Cabinet?
“Most importantly, an important settlement like this must be approved by the Cabinet, ” said Lim who is Bagan MP.
Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim subsequently interjected and said there was no need for Tengku Zafrul to answer Lim, as it was the government’s right not to answer.
“It seems as though this decision was made by two people, not the Cabinet. An important matter like this should be approved by the Cabinet, ” Lim insisted.
Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun intervened, saying that this was a decision by the Finance Ministry and it was definitely brought up to the Cabinet.
Tegku Zafrul responded, saying that the Cabinet had given the mandate to the Attorney General and his team to negotiate a settlement.
Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN-Baling) then accused Lim of misleading the House.
Azhar adjourned the meeting amid continued shouting by MPs, saying that he had already given additional time to Tengku Zafrul to answer questions.
The government had charged Goldman Sachs and 17 current and former directors of its units for allegedly misleading investors over bond sales totalling US$6.5bil (RM27.74bil) that the company helped raise for sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
According to the US Department of Justice, Goldman Sachs earned US$600mil (RM2.56bil) in fees for its work with 1MDB.
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