KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Umno lawmaker Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani has denied claims that he had demanded “lobby fees” from the previous government under Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in return for his help to negotiate a higher settlement with Goldman Sachs in the 1MDB financial scandal.

The Titiwangsa MP who leads the 1MDB special task force also denied involvement in a plot to tarnish Muhyiddin for political mileage as claimed in a document circulating on social media, news portal Free Malaysia Today reported.

“I will not allow sideshows by persons with vested interests to derail the task force's mission of recommending to the government the best possible resolution to the recovery of 1MDB assets.

“I also have no interest in engaging in any political stage show of accusations and counter-accusations, especially with cowards who make them anonymously on dubious blogs," he was quoted as saying in the news report published today.

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Johari, who is also chairman of the government Backbenchers’ Club, has described the document claiming he wanted US$20 million to US$30 million to get more money from the US investment bank as settlement for the 1MDB scandal to be “full of lies”.

“The allegations made against me are simply a mischievous attempt to scuttle important work that the task force is doing to pursue the recovery of stolen public funds and to determine whether those responsible for negotiating the settlement agreement with Goldman Sachs were negligent.

“Clearly, the agreement was not drafted with the government's best interests in mind even though the government was the aggrieved party,” he was quoted as saying.

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Free Malaysia Today reported that Johari denied claims that he had requested any form of fees and for any amount, adding that he had no knowledge of the document's existence.

He said that he was not involved when Muhyiddin's administration reached a US$3.9 billion settlement with the New York-based investment bank in 2020.

Johari said that he met Muhyiddin, then-finance minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, and Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun on June 30, 2020 to discuss the matter of pursuing compensation from Goldman Sachs.

Three days later, he sent a written proposal to Muhyiddin, outlining his justification for the government to initiate a lawsuit against the investment bank in the United States.

“Nowhere in my written proposal was there any reference to ‘lobby fees’ or any other fee which I am accused of seeking,” he was quoted as saying.

According to the news report, Johari believed that Muhyiddin forwarded the proposal to Idrus on July 15, 2020.

The Malaysian government reached an agreement with Goldman Sachs over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal by July 24, 2020.

Johari told the news portal that he was surprised at how quickly the settlement was reached.

“The principal payment of the bonds was only due in May 2022, which means there was ample time for the government to negotiate,” he was quoted as saying.

Previously, Johari had urged the unity government to reevaluate the multi-billion-ringgit deal that was reached between Muhyiddin's government and the investment bank.

On March 9, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was reported to have agreed with Johari that the final sum of the settlement was too low.

The following day, the prime minister announced Johari's appointment to lead the special task force following complaints that the sum Goldman Sachs had agreed to pay was still small in proportion to its role in the scandal.