Does Goldman Sachs have a heart? Guan Eng asks

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the government considers it only fair to seek US$7.5 billion (RM30.7 billion) from Goldman Sachs, after the country has undergone ‘agony’ and 'trauma' from the 1MDB experience. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the government considers it only fair to seek US$7.5 billion (RM30.7 billion) from Goldman Sachs, after the country has undergone ‘agony’ and 'trauma' from the 1MDB experience. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 ― Goldman Sachs “must have a heart” and pay Malaysia back the losses incurred from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) deals which the US investment bank had brokered, Lim Guan Eng said.

The finance minister told New York Times (NYT) in an interview in Hong Kong yesterday that Malaysia had undergone “agony” and “trauma” from the 1MDB experience and that the government considered it only fair to seek US$7.5 billion (RM30.7 billion) from Goldman Sachs, one of the 10 largest investment banks in the US.

“You look at the agony that Malaysia had to endure — not just in terms of the figures but the trauma,” Lim was quoted saying.

“You must have a heart. Sometimes you ask, does Goldman have a heart?”

The government is looking for reparation beyond the sum of its losses in excess of US$600 million fees paid to Goldman and three bonds arranged by the bank for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013.

Last month, Malaysia filed criminal charges in the US against Goldman against the bank’s three subsidiaries — Goldman Sachs International (UK), Goldman Sachs (Singapore) Pte, and Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC.

In an interview with Financial Times (FT) published last November, prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said Goldman’s alleged collusion with fugitive financier Low Taek Jho to defraud Malaysia via 1MDB had inflicted severe damage to the country’s reputation.

Goldman has previously blamed the actions on a few “rogue” individuals formerly under its employ and announced it will challenge the charges in court.

“We have suffered extremely large losses, and you were the financial adviser.

“Now how do you account for that? And don’t tell me you don’t know where the money went.

“Goldman Sachs needs to come to terms with the facts,” Lim told NYT in its Hong Kong interview, referring to the 149-year-old US investment bank.

The finance minister had in an interview with the British daily late last year said Malaysia is open to negotiations to recover money stemming from 1MDB’s bleed.

The NYT reported Lim indicating the current Pakatan Harapan government was ready to walk away from a railway project with China started under the previous Najib administration that had been promoted as a showcase in the ambitious Belt and Road initiative, but did not elaborate.

“All options are on the table,” Lim was quoted saying, and adding that a decision would be made soon. It was unclear in the article which rail project he was referring to.

However, Putrajaya suspended the construction of the 688km East Coast Rail Link undertaken with China Communications Construction Company that was to connect the underdeveloped east coast of peninsular Malaysia to its highly urbanised west coast. The project had been touted as a major push for China’s Belt and Road initiative and was part of the Middle Kingdom’s neo-colonisation plan in the 21st-century.

Representatives from China are reportedly negotiating with Malaysia to revive the frozen project, amid reports of a controversial backroom deal with then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to bail out the debt-riddled 1MDB in exchange.

NYT cited unnamed government officials saying Malaysia would be paying RM2 billion for the deal under current terms, but also reported that the railway line would cause a financial bleed of US$122 million annually once completed.