Business Politics

1MDB in good shape, has right to confidentiality

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – Oct 22, 2015: 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has insisted that it is currently making good progress towards generating profits that it needed to pay its debt interest and capital.

In an interview with Financial Times’ Middle-East correspondent, Michael Peel, the government-owned strategic investment firm’s president Arul Kanda Kandasamy said that the 1MDB was in good shape to reduce its USD$10 billion debt pile.

He also refuted allegations that the firm is holding back crucial information and is more interested in pursuing document leakers than the truth.

In the interview, Arul defended the firm’s decision to file police report over a recent leak of documents including minutes of board meetings that dealt with some of its contentious past investments.

He said the claim that this was a part of a cover-up was a “spurious argument”, given the multiple official investigations under way into 1MDB.

Critics had however alleged that such probes have been hobbled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Allegations of a large-scale misappropriation of money from 1MDB have engulfed Najib and even triggered a power struggle with threat of a no-confidence vote in Parliament looming over him.

Arul nonetheless said that 1MDB’s pursuit of the leakers of its internal papers reflected “the same concern that any other person would have” about their private affairs.

“I am sure you would not like it if somebody put up your bank statements for the public at large to have a look at.

“So, in the same way, we have a right to privacy and confidentiality,” he said.

According to Arul, internal investigations of 1MDB’s activities since 2009 had found no evidence of past criminality.

While Bank Negara this month said it had urged criminal charges over alleged breaches of the law in some of 1MDB’s foreign investments, Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had  said there was no case to answer.

Arul said that 1MDB had now redeemed the USD$1.4 billion of the units in cash and would use the balance in a debt-for-asset swap.

“If you look at our audited accounts, every cent that the company has borrowed and spent is very clearly described,” he said.

However, Arul reportedly declined to give an up-to-date figure on the fund’s debt, which stood at USD$9.8 billion (RM42 billion) in March last year.

Questions over 1MDB’s multibillion-dollar international dealings have grown relentlessly this year to embroil Najib, who chairs the 1MDB’s advisory board and has been under increasing pressure over mysterious payments of more than USD$634 million (RM2.6 billion) into his bank account.

Najib, insisted that the money has nothing to do with 1MDB and is a donation from an unnamed Middle Eastern source.

Some Malaysian opposition politicians and others have raised the possibility of targeting Najib and his Umno-led government either through a no confidence vote or via the rejection of the Malaysia’s 2016 Budget due to be tabled tomorrow.

However, given how deeply divided the oppositions are, there are no public signs yet that a campaign led by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to oust Najib has provoked a wider revolt among either the party’s members of parliament or its powerful regional heads.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.