Hunting the billions stolen from 1MDB around the world

Putrajaya is optimistic more money will be recovered as authorities believes RM42b has been funnelled from the fund


About RM2 billion linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal is expected to be returned to Malaysia as global investigators tighten the noose on people of interest and co-conspirators of the world’s largest financial larceny.

And Putrajaya is optimistic more of the ill-gotten money will be recovered as Malaysian authorities believe about RM42 billion has been funnelled from the fund and used to purchase everything from luxury hotels and homes to exquisite paintings, jewellery and a yacht.

Presently, S$15.3 million (RM45.9 million) has been returned from Singapore and Malaysia has cashed in on the US$126 million (RM514 million) sale of the superyacht Equanimity to Genting Malaysia Bhd.

A report by Bloomberg suggested that Singaporean authorities are in the middle of returning another S$35 million surrendered by former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng and his family. Reuters quoted sources as saying the US authorities will return US$200 million linked to

1MDB this month, largely from the sale of a stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel and from Red Granite Pictures, a film production company co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.

The US prosecutors are also looking to sell a US$39 million mansion in Los Angeles bought by fugitive Low Taek Jho or known as Jho Low, the businessman who is said to be at the centre of the larceny. Jho Low has denied the allegations.

The return of Jho Low to Malaysia will ensure the recovery of billions “stolen” from 1MDB, said PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The PM said the return of the fugitive will pave the way for the recovery of more funds and assets stolen from the state investment fund.

Dr Mahathir said there is still a lot of stolen money from 1MDB to be recovered.

“What we have recovered is not a lot, less than RM2 billion. The money he (Jho Low) stole from 1MDB alone is RM42 billion. So, who got the money? Who kept the money? Where is the money?” he said in Putrajaya yesterday.

“I think there is some evidence that Jho Low has taken a lot of money for himself. Well, we have problems of trying to detect where he is, but we are still going after him,” he said.

Malaysia has reached out to at least six countries to track down the missing assets, with Dr Mahathir doubling the recovery amount to US$7 billion from US$3.5 billion previously.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Tommy Thomas confirmed the extradition of Ng to the US where he will face criminal charges related to 1MDB.

Ng was temporarily surrendered to the US on May 3 and will be returned to Malaysia as soon as proceedings in the US are concluded.

The period of the temporary surrender may be extended, if agreed by both Malaysia and the US.

On another note, Dr Mahathir said the government has not made any decision on whether to sell, refinance or keep troubled national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).

“We have a problem with MAB. The losses and management are terrible that it is difficult to turn it around. As you know, the previous government gave RM6 billion, sacked 6,000 people and they didn’t fly to 60% of the destinations.

“So, if you increase the number of people (now), but with less work, you have less to gain. Some people say we should just sell it.

“Many airlines have been sold because the business is so competitive due to low-cost carriers. Then, there are the Arab airlines which carry luxuries. I don’t know how they do it but it is difficult to compete. We have not made a decision (on MAB),” he said.

The loss-making flag carrier has struggled to stay afloat after being privatised in 2014 by Khazanah Nasional Bhd.