WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department announced on Tuesday it had sent US$300 million (RM1.29 billion) in funds stolen in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal to the government that had been laundered through the global financial system.
Combined with other funds handed over nearly one year ago, the Justice Department said it has now returned or helped Malaysia recover more than US$1 billion in funds and assets lost in the scam.
“The repatriation of these stolen funds to the citizens of Malaysia is the result of the tireless efforts of prosecutors and federal agents to prevent foreign kleptocrats and their associates from using the United States as a playground where they can enjoy the fruits of their pilfered wealth,” said US Attorney Nick Hanna in a statement.
“The amount of money stolen from the people of Malaysia is staggering, and we have been relentless in recovering assets that always should have been used for their benefit.”
The money was a part of the more than US$4.5 billion that US investigators say was looted from the state-owned investment firm, with alleged help from ex-Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his inner circle.
The US says that from 2009 to 2015, high-level officials of 1MDB and a high-flying young businessman named Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, siphoned off the billions originally meant to fund state investments.
Low used a lot of the money to buy luxurious homes and top-level art and invest in Hollywood movies, including the Martin Scorsese hit “Wolf of Wall Street.”
The Justice Department seized most of Low’s assets and has been slowly liquidating them for return to Malaysia.
PM Muhyiddin confirms the news
In a statement today, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin confirmed the return of the USD300 million, making the total amount returned at USD620 million (RM2.68 billion)
He thanked the United States government and its embassy in Kuala Lumpur for their efforts and cooperation in the recovery works.
He also thanked the Malaysian Attorney General and Minister of Finance.