Law firm seeks ex-client 1MDB’s permission to release documents to MACC

MACC wants Rosli Dahlan and Chetan Jethwani and their respective firms to hand over several documents related to its probe.

(FMT) – Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership (RDS) has written to its former client, 1MDB, seeking permission to disclose privileged and confidential documents to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

This comes amid the anti-graft agency’s probe into alleged corruption and money laundering linked to a settlement entered between the government and Goldman Sachs on the 1MDB issue.

Last week, MACC filed a suit to compel lawyers Rosli Dahlan and Chetan Jethwani and their respective legal firms to hand over several documents related to its probe.

Lawyer M Puravelan, who is representing RDS, told High Court judge M Muniandy that his client wrote to 1MDB yesterday to obtain permission to release the documents to MACC.

The lawyer revealed that the letter was contained in an affidavit in reply that was affirmed by the firm’s senior partner, DP Naban.

Addressed to 1MDB chairman Johan Mahmood Merican and exhibited in Naban’s affidavit, the letter said media outlets, citing sources close to the MACC investigation, have claimed that the settlement was a bad deal for Malaysia and that RDS was involved in an alleged bribery scheme which had compromised Malaysia’s position.

The firm, however, called those allegations “false and groundless”.

RDS said that as 1MDB chairman and Treasury secretary-general, Johan’s “deafening silence” on the matter had been detrimental to the firm.

It said settlement negotiations were conducted by the 1MDB task force, which was led at the time by the then finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz and which also included representatives of the attorney-general’s chambers (AGC), finance ministry, MACC, Securities Commission (SC) and the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre.

It further said two sets of lawyers were involved in the negotiations, RDS, which acted for 1MDB, and Logan Sabapathy & Co, representing the SC.

It said a series of negotiations took place between Aug 12 and Aug 17, 2020, to finalise the contractual terms. The draft agreement was tabled to the Cabinet for approval, it added.

“Given the narrative of the extensive involvement of government agencies, the public narrative that RDS was in control of the (Goldman Sachs) settlement to benefit RDS in exchange for a bribe is absurd and preposterous.

“We hope 1MDB will clarify this matter with MACC, which is treating us as suspects of a crime,” the letter stated.

RDS said it had in a letter to new 1MDB task force chairman Johari Ghani dated March 30 this year given a comprehensive explanation of the rationale for the agreement and how the settlement quantum was arrived at.

The firm also said the bulk of privileged and confidential documents had been handed over to current 1MDB solicitors, Messrs Lim Chee Wee & Partners, but that copies of the documents have been retained by RDS.

“We are, however, unable to disclose the materials applied for to MACC without 1MDB’s express consent,” the letter said.

RDS also hoped 1MDB would provide other documents and information as may be required so that the due process is carried out.

MACC has also filed another suit against lawyer Chetan Jethwani and Chetan & Co which represented Goldman Sachs.

MACC said it visited both law firms on Oct 6 but its officers were prevented from searching for and seizing documents pursuant to powers vested in the agency under Section 31(1) of the MAAC Act.

In court filings sighted by FMT, it said the lawyers had taken the stand that the documents were privileged communication between client and solicitor.

The lawyers also claimed that MACC must obtain an order from the High Court under Section 46(2) of the MACC Act, read together with Section 126(1) of the Evidence Act, to compel disclosure.

However, MACC denies the applicability of the provisions in the circumstances of the case.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that the New York-based investment bank was suing Putrajaya in a UK arbitration court following a “festering disagreement” over a settlement entered when former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was in power to resolve 1MDB’s US$6.5 billion bond saga.

Lawyer Harwinderjeet Singh, who is representing Rosli, also told Muniandy that his client had yet to file an affidavit in response to MACC’s action as he was overseas.

Muniandy directed parties to file their affidavits and replies by Nov 21.