Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is considering asking the US Department of Justice to get Goldman Sachs to return nearly $600 million in fees it earned from bonds raised for scandal-tainted 1Malaysia Development Berhad, two sources familiar with the matter said on Friday (08/06).
Malaysia is scrambling to bring home billions of dollars allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB, a state fund founded by ex-premier Najib Razak, who lost a general election last month.
His successor, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said Malaysia is also seeking to arrest financier Low Taek Jho, a central figure in the scandal who advised on investments and negotiated deals for 1MDB.
Malaysian authorities want to ask the DoJ, which is pursuing a corruption and money laundering probe at 1MDB, to get Goldman to disgorge profits it made from the sale of the bonds, after which Malaysia would claim the money, the two sources familiar with the matter said.
No formal request has been made to the DoJ on the Goldman fees, but top officials are actively discussing the plan within the government, they said.
"There have been no official requests yet, but this is being discussed," said a Malaysian government source.
A financial industry source in Malaysia, who is aware of the discussions, said back channel talks between the government and the DoJ were underway.
How Kuala Lumpur would go about claiming the funds, and the legal hurdles in the process were not immediately made clear by the sources.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the minister had no comment on the matter.
A spokesman for Goldman Sachs declined to comment and the DoJ was not available outside US business hours.
The US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur directed Reuters to the DoJ for comment.
Goldman raised nearly $6.5 billion in three bond sales between 2012 and 2013 for 1MDB.
More than $2.5 billion raised from these bonds were misappropriated by high-level 1MDB officials, their relatives and associates, according to DoJ civil lawsuits filed in a US court in 2016.
The US bank earned almost $600 million for the three deals – an amount critics say is far in excess of the normal 1-2 percent fees a bank could expect for helping sell bonds.
A special task force set up after the election to look into 1MDB met officials from the DoJ and the US FBI to discuss the probe in late May, including the process of returning the funds to Malaysia, the government has said.