Under-fire Singapore daily defends 1MDB reports

Debra Chong
DAP MP Tony Pua ticked off the Straits Times two days ago for what he called 'persistent misreporting' on 1MDB. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Accused of “persistent misreporting”, Straits Times (ST) editor Warren Fernandez said today the Singapore paper stands by its two articles on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal authored by its regional correspondent Leslie Lopez.

In an article on its website, Fernandez said the two articles published on October 7 and 14 under the headlines “Looming US$70m 1MDB interest payment is key test for Malaysia“ and “Malaysia’s 1MDB Debt to Abu Dhabi may have ballooned“ respectively were based on documents and information from highly placed and reliable sources.

DAP MP Tony Pua ticked off the newspaper two days ago for what he called “persistent misreporting” on 1MDB and singled out the two articles concerning Putrajaya’s payments to Abu-Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and its parent company, Mubadala Development Co PJSC.

Pua, who is also political secretary to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, chided the newspaper for citing anonymous government sources, adding that they should be able to get more reliable sources to provide them with more up-to-date information.

“ST got it so wrong because MoF had already authorised and made the October coupon payments without fuss. Surely, ST can get better sources for its stories.

“And what ‘dangerous precedent’ is ST referring to?” the Damansara MP asked.

Pua said a full settlement of the milestone payment to IPIC before the October 15 deadline would amount to the “explicit “recognition of the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government on the liabilities and commitments it inherited from the previous government on all 1MDB-related matters.

He also explained that the Malaysian government did not owe a whopping US$6.89 billion (RM28.65billion) before interest charges to IPIC’s parent company, Mubadala Development Co PJSC.

Instead, he said the “Guaranteed Obligations” provided by IPIC for the two 1MDB bonds amounting to US$3.5 billion (RM14.55 bill) “will also be assumed by Mudabala”.

In his reply to Pua, Lopez said Malaysian government lawyers probably were unaware about the settlement agreement between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi because they could not source documentation related to the deal.

He added that the London-based lawyers hired to represent the Malaysian government have been told to look into the possibility that the notes cited in the IPIC announcement could be tied to 1MDB.

However, he maintained in a statement on the ST website today that the October payment was the first to be paid out under the 1MDB settlement agreement by the previous Barisan Nasional government “to avoid a potentially damaging arbitration process”.

He said the payment schedule sighted by his newspaper showed that the last charge of US$52.41 million was due on May 7 while the subsequent payment just two days ago represents the first obligation of the new PH government under the settlement agreement.

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