Singapore daily stands by reports on 1MDB debt

Singapore daily stands by reports on 1MDB debt

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PETALING JAYA: The Straits Times (ST) today defended its recent reports on sovereign wealth fund 1MDB against criticisms by Damansara MP Tony Pua.

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The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said the paper stood by its reporter and the reports filed as these were based on documents and information from highly placed and reliable sources.

Pua, who is the political secretary to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, had criticised two articles in the ST with the first published on Oct 7 and headlined “Looming S$70m 1MDB interest payment is key test for Malaysia”.

He said that a US$50 million interest payment to Abu Dhabi, referred to in the article, was not “the first financial commitment” the new Pakatan Harapan government had to honour over the 1MDB affair since coming to power after the general election on May 9.

He also pointed out that Lim had on May 31 announced that he had “very reluctantly” signed off on the interest payment of RM143.75 million the previous day for a 1MDB bond “guaranteed” by International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC).

He said the ST report was wrong as the finance ministry had also authorised and made the October coupon payment without fuss.

ST regional correspondent Leslie Lopez, who wrote both reports, noted that the October payment was the first to be paid out under the 1MDB settlement agreement the previous government had signed with Abu Dhabi to avoid a potentially damaging arbitration process.

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The settlement agreement, which required Malaysia to make payments amounting to US$1.2 billion in two separate instalments in the second half of 2017, also called for milestone payments between April 2017 and October 2022.

Lopez said the payment schedule seen by The Straits Times showed that the last charge of US$52.41 million fell due on May 7, two days before Malaysia’s general election.

“The Oct 15 payment thus represents the first obligation of the new government under the settlement agreement,” he said.

On Pua’s criticism of ST’s Oct 14 article headlined “Malaysia’s 1MDB debt to Abu Dhabi may have ballooned”, Lopez said the Malaysian government lawyers remained in the dark about the settlement agreement between 1MDB and Abu Dhabi because they were unable to source documentation related to the deal.

“The London lawyers appointed by the Malaysian government have been instructed to look into the possibility that the notes cited in the IPIC announcement could be tied to 1MDB,” he added.

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