Malaysia still pursuing unidentified 1MDB assets worth RM19b

We are working together with the NAFCC to locate, investigate and research where these properties are, says chief commissioner

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

MALAYSIA is still pursuing billions of ringgit worth of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) assets in at least five countries.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya (picture) said the anti-graft body and the recently established National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NAFCC) are tracking the assets, believed to be properties with an estimated value of RM18.9 billion.

“Those are currently being pursued. So, apart from the very obvious ones, this is where we are working together with the NAFCC to locate, investigate and research where these properties are. This is not just one transaction but (involves) multiple transactions so we need to work together with other countries.

“We cannot share (the details) publicly as we are in the middle of investigation. We certainly do not want them to cover their tracks as we speak,” Latheefa said at the 11th International Conference on Financial Crime and Terrorism Financing 2019 (IFCTF 2019) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The MACC estimated that the total distribution of 1MDB assets is valued at RM35.95 billion. Of the total, RM8.84 billion are assets already identified by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) including a yacht, investments in a hotel, paintings, jewellery and real estate.

The 1MDB task force has also identified assets worth RM3.93 billion. Some RM4.28 billion is used for utilisation, while RM18.9 billion remains unidentified.

The DoJ last week reached a settlement with fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, to recover over US$1 billion (RM4.18 billion) in assets associated with 1MDB.

It said in a statement that the settlement — Washington’s largest ever civil forfeiture — comprised the recovery of over US$700 million worth of assets located in the US, the UK and Switzerland. The settlement, however, did not include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing, and it is independent from criminal proceedings against Low.

Separately, Latheefa said the MACC is investigating all 16 land swap deals involving the Defence Ministry following claims by Deputy Law Minister Mohamed Hanipa Maidin that only one investigation paper has been opened on the controversy.

Given that some deals date over 25 years ago, the MACC will require more time to properly investigate the cases.

“I believe Mohamed Hanipa was talking about one of the many cases of the land swaps. MACC received definitely more than one. Yes (there are 16),” she said.

“We are talking about 25 years involving different ministers of defence and various civil servants who have changed over the course of the years. It is not as simple as just handing us an audit report. We are in the middle of investigating and I believe that not every case will become a fullblown prosecution,” she added.