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Johari must explain the US$3.51b already paid to IPIC

MP SPEAKS Last August, Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani said he was very confident that 1MDB would win the arbitration on its dispute with Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), given the documents provided by 1MDB to the minister.

"As far as I'm concerned, I am very confident that we will win (the case), based on the documents that I have, supplied by 1MDB to me," Johari told reporters after a 2017 Budget focus group meeting.

IPIC had claimed up to US$6.5 billion from 1MDB, including two bonds amounting to US$3.5 billion issued by the latter and guaranteed by the former.

Johari had insisted that 1MDB has already paid US$3.51 billion to IPIC or its purported subsidiary, Aabar Investment PJS Limited (Aabar BVI), a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

IPIC on the other hand, has publicly refuted that Aabar BVI is not its subsidiary, even though it carries the same name as its own subsidiary, Aabar Investment PJS, a company registered in Abu Dhabi.

1MDB claimed it has already paid Aabar BVI the amounts of:

  1. US$1.367 billion as a “security deposit” for the US$3.5 billion of bonds in 2012;
  2. US$993 billion for the termination of options granted to IPIC or Aabar in November 2014; and
  3. Additional sums of US$855 million and US$295 million as “top-up security deposit” in September and December 2014 respectively.

"It's too bad for them not to acknowledge that (Aabar BVI), because as far as the record is concerned, the company belongs to them (IPIC). Now they suddenly say that the company does not belong to them. So we want to see them in court and let the arbitration look at our document," Johari had insisted then.

Even in his open letter to me as recently as last month, Johari declared that "as for the dispute regarding the US$3.5 billion, which was paid to the IPIC group of companies by 1MDB, IPIC cannot continually deny that they have received the monies when 1MDB has already paid the same to them. I don't think Malaysians in their right mind will want to just give up on that issue of the payment".

So the question is, Johari must now explain why the Malaysian negotiators have “given up” their case against IPIC in their “settlement” announced two days ago.

Under the terms of the settlement, despite 1MDB having purportedly paid the US$3.51 billion to IPIC or its subsidiary, the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc) has agreed to assume all liabilities arising from the US$3.5 billion of bonds, which were previously guaranteed by IPIC.

Why capitulate to IPIC's demands?

Given that 1MDB is clearly in no position to pay the debts, Malaysian taxpayers will now have to fork out another US$3.5 billion to bail out 1MDB as part of the above settlement. This means that we will ultimately pay a whopping total of US$7.01 billion, or more than double the US$3.5 billion of bond borrowings by 1MDB.

What has happened to Johari’s gung-ho statement that “we must fight and win this case”? Why did we capitulate to IPIC’s demands before the fight even began?

Is it because 1MDB has finally conceded that Aabar BVI was clearly a fraudulent company to begin with, and the US$3.51 billion originally paid has been clearly misappropriated and lost?

More interestingly, just two days before the settlement was announced, Johari suddenly washes his hands and says he was “not involved in the negotiations. It (is) being done by (the) management and board of 1MDB with PMO’s (Prime Minister’s Office) officers.”

The second finance minister had heroically claimed in his open letter to me that “it would be wholly irresponsible for (him) to shirk off this responsibility and opportunity to serve the nation.”

So, may I ask, is agreeing to pay US$7.01 billion for a US$3.5 billion loan the “responsible” thing to do in “serving the nation”?

TONY PUA is DAP's Petaling Jaya Utara MP.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.