Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Malaysia hunts $4.3 billion assets linked to 1MDB money-laundering probe

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Malaysia is working to locate at least $4.3 billion in assets that have yet to be accounted for in a global money laundering probe into state fund 1MDB, its anti-corruption chief said on Tuesday.

U.S. authorities say about $4.5 billion was siphoned from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in a scandal spanning several countries but Malaysian officials say much more was stolen.

The United States struck a deal last week to recover about $700 million more from fugitive financier Jho Low, who has played a central role in the scandal. He had previously forfeited a $126 million yacht and $140 million in other assets.

But about 18 billion ringgit ($4.34 billion) in assets remain unidentified and Malaysia was working with at least five countries to recover the amount, Latheefa Koya, the head of Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), told reporters.

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“This what we’re working on… to locate, investigate and research where these properties are,” Latheefa said.

She declined to give further details on the assets sought or the countries involved, citing pending investigations.

At least six countries, including Singapore and Switzerland, are investigating alleged graft and money laundering at 1MDB, founded by former prime minister Najib Razak.

Najib, who lost a general election last year, has since been charged with 42 criminal offences related to losses at 1MDB and other state entities.

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He has consistently denied wrongdoing and his lawyers say he was misled by high-ranked officials at the fund.

Malaysia estimates that Low stole more than $10 billion from 1MDB, attorney-general Tommy Thomas told the Nikkei Asian Review last month.

Low, who faces charges in Malaysia and the United States over the scandal, has consistently denied wrongdoing. His whereabouts are unknown.

($1=4.1500 ringgit)

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