TAXPAYERS are the likely source to help 1MDB make its US$602.73 million (RM2.46 billion) payment to an Abu Dhabi firm on December 31, an opposition lawmaker said, in the absence of answers from the authorities on how the troubled state firm will clear its debt.

The Malaysian Insight sought responses from 1Malaysia Development Bhd chairman Irwan Serigar Abdullah, president Arul Kanda Kandasamy and Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani but all declined to comment on the matter.

But speaking to some reporters after a Finance Ministry function on Thursday night, Irwan said: “Wait and see”. Irwan is also the treasury’s secretary-general.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said Finance Ministry, which owns 1MDB, has not been forthcoming on the source of 1MBD’s first payment to International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) to clear a US$1.205 billion debt.

The first payment of US$603 million was scheduled for the end of July but was delayed until August.

1MDB is supposed to make another payment of US$602.73 million by year-end.

MOF to the rescue?

In April, 1MBD said it would use “investment units” owned by 1MDB subsidiary Brazen Sky Limited to pay International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

But in June, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed that these investment units held by Brazen Sky were fraudulent.

“Since the DOJ has exposed this, 1MDB has gone completely silent about these ‘units’. My question in Parliament on this has also been rejected,”   said Pua.

The ministry’s refusal to divulge where 1MDB got its funds indicates that the government directly or indirectly helped the firm make those payments, he said.

“Hence if MOF were to do the same, by using taxpayers’ funds to assist 1MDB in making the payments, then 1MDB would, of course, have no problems settling this sum in December.

“I’m dead certain MOF made available the funds for 1MDB to make the payment in one way or another.

“That’s why the minister of finance and 1MDB have repeatedly refused to entertain my questions on this matter. Otherwise, why is it so difficult to answer if the source of funds for 1MDB is above board?”

Source of funds

Economist Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajuddin said investors are keen to know what is the source of funds, given that 1MDB is fully owned by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc) and the government had guaranteed 1MDB’s loans.

“It may make investors wonder whether at some point in the not-too-distant future, the federal government would have to intervene to address 1MDB’s default risks.”  

Apart from the questions surrounding the source of 1MDB’s funds, economists said uncertainty continues to swirl as to whether it will be able to make the next payment on time to IPIC, given that it missed the first instalment deadline in July by a month.

“Another delay could raise doubts over 1MDB’s latent ability to meet its financial obligations apart from the possibility of penalties being imposed on 1MDB,” said Azrul Azwar.

Lost payments

1MDB and IPIC reached a debt settlement on the US$1.205 billion at the London Court of International Arbitration in April.

The settlement was another chapter in the saga of scandal-tainted 1MDB, which is at the centre of money laundering and fraud investigations in six countries.

The DoJ said up to US$4.5 billion could have been stolen and siphoned off the state fund which was a brainchild of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who headed its advisory board.

In July 2016, the DoJ said some US$731 million of 1MDB money had made its way into the personal accounts of Malaysian Official No. 1, which a minister later confirmed was Najib.

Najib has denied all wrongdoing, saying that the funds came from Saudi royalty.

The deal between IPIC and 1MDB began in 2012 when the former guaranteed two bonds worth US$1.75 billion each for 1MDB to raise funds for the purchase of power-generation assets. In return, 1MDB was to make collateral payments to IPIC.

However, by the end of 2015, problems arose when IPIC said it did not receive a US$3.5 billion payment due to it.

1MBD, on the other hand, said it had made payments to an IPIC subsidiary, Aabar Investments PJS Limited or Aabar (BVI), registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The DoJ’s 1MBD probe confirmed that Aabar BVI is a fraudulent company made to impersonate the real Aabar, which is named Aabar Investment PJS.

As they could not agree on the missing monies, in May 2016, Abu Dhabi and Putrajaya agreed to take the dispute for private arbitration in London.

Pua has previously said 1MBD’s April settlement with IPIC was an acknowledgement that it had lost the first US$3.51 billion payment to IPIC.