Malaysia, Goldman discuss smaller penalty over 1MDB scandal: Bloomberg

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has discussed a $2 billion to $3 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs over the U.S. bank’s alleged role in the 1MDB scandal, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, less than half the sum the Southeast Asian nation had demanded earlier.

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Investigators in Malaysia and the United States say about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the now-defunct state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, set up in 2009 by former Prime Minister Najib Razak who has been slapped with several charges.

Last year, Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman over its role as underwriter and arranger of three bond sales that raised $6.5 billion for 1MDB. Prosecutors in August filed criminal charges against 17 current and former directors at Goldman’s units.

Malaysia’s finance minister said in January the government would be ready to discuss dropping the charges against Goldman if it agreed to pay $7.5 billion in reparations. Goldman has not commented on any figure but said last year it had set aside $1.8 billion to cover potential losses related to 1MDB legal proceedings.

Citing people with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was keen to reach a deal with Goldman this year itself as the government grapples with a high debt burden.

Goldman declined to comment on the report. A spokesman for Mahathir had no immediate comment.

The country’s attorney-general said recently that they had a strong case against Goldman and were very confident of winning, but that criminal charges and settlement negotiations were taking place in parallel.

The bank said last week it was in discussions with governmental and regulatory authorities on the possibility of a resolution of investigations relating to 1MDB.

Najib, who lost a general election last year, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received about $1 billion in 1MDB funds. He has pleaded not guilty.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said at a trial on Tuesday in one of Najib’s cases that the former premier acted like an “emperor” who orchestrated massive fraud at a former unit of 1MDB. Najib’s lawyer is expected to rebut the prosecution’s case on Wednesday.

A ruling on whether to acquit Najib or call for him to enter his defence will be delivered on Nov. 11.

Separately, Lebanese jeweler Global Royalty SAL withdrew on Tuesday a civil suit against Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, their lawyers said. The firm had sought more than $14 million in jewelry that it said were in her possession.

Global Royalty would instead focus on intervening in the government's forfeiture proceedings against the owner of a property from which jewelry were seized by police, its lawyer told local media here.

Najib and Rosmah were barred from leaving Malaysia soon after his surprise election loss last year, and their lifestyle came under scrutiny especially after the discovery of nearly $300 million worth of goods and cash at properties linked to him.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman