Friday, October 30, 2020

Wolf of Wall Street producer Riza Aziz to forfeit $60M assets linked to 1MDB funds

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The US Department of Justice (DoJ) today announced a settlement in a civil forfeiture suit involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz worth more than US60 million (RM207 million) in assets purchased with funds allegedly siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

A statement published on the DoJ website detailing the latest settlement indicated that Malaysia can expect to receive nearly US$1.1 billion (RM4.56 billion).

The US DoJ said the newly recovered assets from Riza are in addition to over US$1 billion (RM4.14 billion) already forfeited in connection with its 1MDB investigation.

Among the assets recovered from Riza include the sale proceeds of high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, California, a luxury condominium in New York and an upscale townhome in London.

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Also included is the sale proceeds of investments Riza made in a maintenance company based in Kentucky and of a promotional poster of the 1972 movie ‘Metropolis’.

The statement said the value of 1MDB linked assets returned to Malaysia is also the largest amount ever recovered in terms of value DoJ and its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

US Justice Department’s Criminal Division Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt said the settlement was a form of admittance from Riza Aziz that he and other collectively laundered funds from 1MDB.

“Aziz and his co-conspirators allegedly diverted these funds for their own benefit and used them to acquire luxury real estate in New York and London and to make personal investments.

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“The forfeiture of these assets will add to the almost US$1.1 billion stolen from 1MDB that the US Department of Justice has so far helped recover and return to the Malaysian people.

“This forfeiture sends a clear signal that the Department will not allow wrongdoers to use the US financial system to launder the proceeds of their illegal activity,” he said in a statement on the US DoJ website.

US Attorney for the Central District of California, Nick Hanna said the latest development was just another drop in the bucket as investigations shed light into the ‘massive fraud and money laundering scheme’.

“The high-end properties across the nation that have now been seized and forfeited demonstrate our commitment to preventing corrupt actors from using the United States as a place to hide stolen riches,” Hanna said in a statement also published on the US DoJ website.

Last week, local business daily The Edge cited an anonymous source claiming Malaysia had received part of the US$2.5 billion (RM10.36 billion) that US investment bank Goldman Sachs agreed to pay for the withdrawal of criminal charges here against it over the 1MDB scandal.

According to The Edge, the funds were in an escrow account pending the finalisation of the transaction between the government and Goldman.

This after a settlement was made in July between the federal government and Goldman to drop criminal charges against the US investment bank over bond issuances on behalf of 1MDB in 2012 and 2013.

The settlement included the US$2.5 billion cash payment and Goldman’s undertaking to ensure Malaysia received at least US$1.4 billion (RM5.8 billion) in assets linked to 1MDB.

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