When something looks dodgy, smells fishy and lacks detail – and then gets locked away thanks to an abuse of Official Secrecy, the world is entitled to be suspicious and to say so.
This is the case with the rushed, cut-price settlement that the coup coalition reached with Goldman Sachs after the previous government had effectively cornered the bank with criminal charges and a far higher (much fairer) figure in mind to compensate Malaysia for fraud and theft.
Dr Mahathir, whose failings may be many, has always adopted a directness over 1MDB which has resonated with the people thanks to his straight talk and candour, and once again he has spoken truth to those presently in charge by telling them the secrecy stinks.
Transparency International have also stated the settlement is a matter of public interest and ought to be vetted by a parliamentary committee.
Malaysians want to know why PN suddenly abandoned charges against 17 Goldman employees and its local subsidiary which had targeted reparations from the bank of a realistic $9 billion.
After all, the debt Malaysia is currently shouldering thanks to this blatant fraud the bank foisted on the country on behalf of its kleptocrats still stands at a massive $7.2 billion – that’s following the pigmy payment from Goldman – i.e. over RM32 billion that taxpayers have to find.
Why did Malaysia’s backdoor government decide to cut and run in the middle of a powerful prosecution and settle for such a low deal? Why were the details kept so vague on exactly what the commitments were, especially with regard to the bank’s supposed agreement to underwrite the recovery of certain assets that inflated the alleged settlement to $3.9 billion when in fact it was only offering $2.5 billion in cash?
And why now will Malaysians never be allowed to know the answers to any of the above, because the self-same people who negotiated the deal have made it an ‘Official Secret’?
These laughable evasions of accountability come from exactly the same playbook as when Najib placed 1MDB’s massaged audited accounts under Official Secrecy as well. Even though the auditors of Malaysia had been forced to loose chunks of the original damning document it was still too dangerous for Najib to allow it to see the light of day.
Likewise, the secrecy engaged in by Goldman Sachs itself over the original bond issues which instead of being placed on the open market at a competitive tender like any normal public issue by a government of the day, were handled ‘below radar’ by the bank for a stupendous fee. Indeed, Goldman underwrote the entire offer and released the bonds to private clients to keep the matter out of the public eye entirely.
It was Sarawak Report who obtained a copy of one of those secretive ‘offer documents’ designed for Goldman’s privileged clientele back in July 2013 and who sounded the first straight challenge to the global bank. We asked why the secrecy, why the huge commission, why the bloated interest payments and why the strange guarantees by Abu Dhabi that had not been signalled to the Malaysian public?
The answer, as we predicted, was corruption. Dr M is now asking, rightly, the same sorts of questions about this latest episode between the self-same players to all intents and purposes for the same reasons.
The excuse being given by PAS’s dapper, luxury loving ‘Law Minister’, Mr Takyuddin Hassan, is not convincing. He explains the government has signed a ‘non-disclosure agreement’ with the bank and therefore cannot run the risk of being sued!
Why? Had the matter been resolved in court there would have been an open judgement. Why are the Malaysian people being denied a full open and honest account of this quick cheap deal by a backdoor, unelected government who seized power in the middle of the case
“Legislators on both sides of the divide ought to be given access to the information in the name of transparency. This simply does not warrant to be called a state secret,”
Muhammad has told reporters – and he is entirely right.
What is perhaps the most surprising aspect of this extraordinary and outrageous development at the end of a scandal that has seen the conviction of a prime minister and a suspended sentence issued over the head of Goldman Sachs itself in the United States, is that the leaders of this now tarnished institution have failed to learn from their earlier follies to engage in such a murky arrangement despite the world attention on the case.
The details of their fraudulent bond issue are now known. The details of the altered Auditor’s Report are now known. Exactly where the stolen billions went (including the bonuses to the present CEO of Goldman, who notoriously celebrated openly in the Hamptons the weekend after this putrid PN settlement was signed) is also known in detail.
Moreover, the fragile and tenuous hold on power by this PN government is plain to see. So, why have this once bitten bank decided that it would be a good idea to participate in such a suspicious lack of transparency at the very same time that it has been weeping crocodile tears to shareholders, regulators, investigators and Malaysians about its poor earlier conduct over 1MDB?
Plainly, criminals both in Malaysia and the United States have an inability to learn when they get off too lightly by far.