US returns RM1.3b in 1MDB funds

PM says inclusive of this most recent tranche, a total of RM2.7b have been returned to Malaysia

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic credit:

THE US Department of Justice (DoJ) has returned US$300 million (RM1.3 billion) of additional funds to Malaysia allegedly misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said inclusive of this most recent tranche of US$300 million, a total of US$620 million of 1MDB monies — in the form of sales proceeds or assets — have been returned to Malaysia.

“Malaysia’s wanted criminal Low Taek Jho (known as Jho Low) had on Oct 30, 2019, reached a settlement with the DoJ pertaining to numerous forfeiture claims filed by the DoJ against assets he had purchased using 1MDB monies,” Muhyiddin said in a statement yesterday.

The PM added that the RM1.3 billion represents some of those assets which had been forfeited and later sold.

It also includes proceeds from 1MDB-linked assets that were given up or forfeited by individuals linked to Jho Low.

The funds were laundered through financial institutions in several jurisdictions, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg.

“The process to sell Jho Low’s remaining forfeited assets under the DoJ consent forfeiture judgement is ongoing,” he said, adding that the funds are an outcome of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiatives of the DoJ in relation to 1MDB.

He also expressed his gratitude towards the US government, in particular to its embassy here, for assistance and cooperation in facilitating the return of the fund.

“1MDB asset recovery efforts are ongoing, and the government will continue to work with the US, the DoJ and other governments to recover and repatriate more 1MDB monies in the future,” Muhyiddin added.

Separately, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said since the 1MDB assets recovery efforts were initiated in June 2018, the RM2.68 billion received from the US to date include US$57 million from the proceeds of settlement with Red Granite Pictures (credited in March 2019) and US$137 million from the sale proceeds of Jho Low’s interest in the Park Lane Hotel (credited in April 2019).

It also includes US$126 million from the judicial sale of the luxury yacht, Equanimity, by the Malaysian Admiralty Court (credited into the trust account in December 2019), and the recent US$300 million credited in April 2020 to Malaysia.

“The latest US$300 million returned consists of money or assets in connection to 1MDB that was recovered, disposed of by, or voluntarily surrendered to the DoJ.

“The Ministry of Finance will continue to provide full cooperation to all domestic and international investigating entities in ensuring the same positive outcome from these efforts in the future,” Tengku Zafrul added.

The DoJ in a statement stated that in 2019, the US District Court for the Central District of California entered judgements forfeiting more than US$700 million in assets acquired by Jho Low and his family located in the US, the UK and Switzerland.

“To date, the US has recovered (or assisted in the recovery of) more than US$1 billion in assets associated with the 1MDB international money laundering and bribery scheme.

“This represents the largest recovery to date under the department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the DoJ,” it said.

The DoJ’s Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski said the latest payment reflects the US’ continuing commitment to the Malaysian people to hunt down, seize, forfeit and return assets that were acquired in connection to this brazen scheme.

According to the civil forfeiture complaints, from 2009 through 2015, more than US$4.5 billion in funds belonging to 1MDB were allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of 1MDB and their associates, including Jho Low, through a criminal conspiracy involving international money laundering and bribery.

The assets subject to the 2019 judgements include high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London; a luxury boutique hotel in Beverly Hills; and tens of millions of dollars in business investments that Low allegedly made with funds traceable to misappropriated 1MDB monies.