US Charges Financier, Former Goldman Bankers for 1MDB

AFP pic

AFP pic

An estimated $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, the United States justice department alleged.

Putrajaya would like to get its hands on fugitive financier Low Taek Jho first, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

While the Justice Department has been investigating the 1MDB scandal for some time and has pursued civil lawsuits, these are the first criminal charges the department has brought against individuals related to the 1MDB scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal, which brought global attention to the scandal itself in 2015. Working with the FBI, Indonesian authorities seized Low's $250 million luxury yacht Equanimity off Bali in February and Malaysia's government is now auctioning it.

Lawyers representing Low and Leissner did not respond to requests for comment.

The DOJ alleged the bond proceeds were transferred to MO1 close relative were later used by the relative's U.S. motion picture company to assist in the production of the film "The Wolf of Wall Street". Leissner has been ordered to forfeit $43.7m as a result of his crimes. Leissner pleaded guilty, and Ng was arrested in Malaysia.

While US prosecutors have considered the possibility of charging Najib or his associates, they would prefer Malaysia be the one to file criminal charges against any Malaysian official, a US law enforcement official said.

In a statement issued on his behalf by a public relations firm based in Sydney, Australia, Low who is also known as Jho Low, asked for the public to keep an open mind regarding the case until all the evidence comes to light as he believed that he would be vindicated.

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The Associated Press quotes a spokesman for Low as saying, "Mr".

In a speech previous year in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced the scandal as "kleptocracy at its worst". The Malaysian government is seeking restitution from Goldman, according to the country's new Finance Minister.

The department said Low's close relationships with high-ranking government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi were central to the scheme, including his relationship with a high-ranking Malaysian government official who had authority to approve 1MDB business decisions, named by the DOJ as "Malaysian Official #1", or MO1.

Low held no formal position at the 1MDB fund, which is insolvent but still exists pending payment of its billions of dollars in debts. About $700 million landed in Najib's bank account, though he denies any wrongdoing. A parliamentary inquiry found many irregularities but had no mandate to prosecute.

Former leader Mahathir Mohammad, outraged over the scandal, came out of retirement and the opposition united behind him in the national elections, leading to Najib's ouster in May.

The scandal has already had major political ramifications in Malaysia, where Najib in 2015 sacked his attorney general and a deputy prime minister for demanding answers about 1MDB.

Jho Low and Ludacris attend Angel Ball 2014 hosted by Gabrielle's Angel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street on October 20, 2014 in New York City.

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