Malaysia has recovered US$322 million stolen from the scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, officials said Tuesday (Mar 17) – a fraction of the more than US$4.5 billion US prosecutors say was looted.
Another US$1.6 billion plundered from 1Malaysia Development Berhad has been identified and steps are being taken to recover the money, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s office said.
Former top officials at the state fund and their cronies allegedly stole billions from 1MDB and used the money to buy items ranging from a super yacht to artwork.
The allegations contributed to Najib’s shock 2018 election loss, and he has since been put on trial over the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led a coalition that toppled Najib from power at the polls, had spearheaded efforts to recover the looted money.
But Mahathir abruptly resigned last month after his coalition collapsed amid a powerplay.
This paved the way for Muhyiddin to become prime minister with the support of Najib’s United Malays National Organisation party, sparking concern his trials and others linked to the 1MDB scandal could be affected.
Malaysia has not given an estimate of how much money was stolen from 1MDB.
But the US Department of Justice, which is investigating the theft due to claims money was laundered through the American financial system, believes US$4.5 billion was siphoned off.