On Wednesday, 20th July, the United States Justice Department announced that it is looking to seize over $1 billion (~RM 4 billion) worth of assets linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund. As reported by Bloomberg, The US Justice Department stated that more than $3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and about $1 billion of that was laundered through the US banking system.
In a charge brought by the US Justice Department against The Wolf of Wall Street film, it was stated that funds from 1MDB were laundered in the US through acquisition of several luxury properties and high-end purchases. Some of the assets identified were the L’Ermitage Property and business assets, Park Laurel Condominium, Time Warner Penthouse, several mansions, a bombardier jet, a van Gogh painting, and two paintings by Monet.
Among those named in the indictment filed yesterday was Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Shahriz Bin Abdul Aziz. Riza Shahriz is the co-founder Red Granite Pictures, the Hollywood production company that backed The Wolf of Wall Street. Also named was Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, who is a close friend of Riza and was a consultant for 1MDB. The US government is also seeking to seize royalties and future proceeds from the film.
In the indictment, it was noted that the money was diverted by several individuals, including public officials, for their personal benefits.
Here’s an extract from the indictment filed:
“…over the course of an approximately four-year period, between 2009 and at least 2013, multiple individuals, including public officials and their associates, conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB through various means, including by defrauding foreign banks and by sending foreign wire communications in furtherance of the scheme, and thereafter, to launder the proceed of that criminal conducts, including in and through US financial institutions.”
The money, according to US investigations and laid out in the lawsuit, was used by those involved and their associates, to purchase luxury real estate in the US, for gambling expenses in Las Vegas, to acquire over $200 million in artwork, and to fund the production of Hollywood films.
Bloomberg reported that earlier in the year, 1MDB insisted that it had “never invested in nor transferred funds to Red Granite Pictures, whether directly or via intermediaries”, while Jho Low said that consultations he provided for 1MDB didn’t break any laws.
This is the biggest single action ever brought by the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Initiative in the US, according to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Watch the United States Justice Department press conference on the announcement of the lawsuit:
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