US to seize 1MDB-linked assets worth S$1.36b

This file photo taken on June 27 shows Malaysia's PM Najib Razak as he addresses the media following a cabinet reshuffle at his office in Putrajaya.
This file photo taken on June 27 shows Malaysia's PM Najib Razak as he addresses the media following a cabinet reshuffle at his office in Putrajaya. PHOTO: AFP

The United States government yesterday moved to seize more than US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) in assets purchased with money that it believes was stolen from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, allegedly by people close to the country's Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Hidden in the US in real estate, art and other luxury goods, the money was embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and moved around the world using secretive shell companies that masked its trail, the US Justice Department said. The fund, overseen by Datuk Seri Najib, faces several investigations at home and abroad looking into its dealings.

The forfeiture complaints, issued by a unit known as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, represent the largest such case brought by the US Justice Department.

The US is among several governments, including Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland, that have investigated the fund.

 

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In its court filings, the Justice Department named three people who it believed have conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB.

One, Hollywood producer Riza Aziz, is the stepson of Mr Najib. Another, Malaysian financier Jho Low, is a long-time friend of Mr Aziz and his family. The third is Mr Mohamed Badawy al-Husseiny, a former official at a government fund in Abu Dhabi that participated in deals with 1MDB.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'US to seize 1MDB-linked assets worth $1.4b'. Print Edition | Subscribe