US$1b deal with fugitive financier

World | REUTERS 1 Nov 2019

The Justice Department has struck a deal to recoup US$1 billion (HK$7.8 billion) in funds allegedly looted from a Malaysian state investment fund by fugitive financier Jho Low, in a record capture for the US anti-corruption probe.

US authorities say about US$4.5 billion were siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, founded in 2009 by then Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. Since 2016, the Justice Department, in the biggest ever case in its anti-kleptocracy program, has filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize about US$1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds.

Low faces charges in both the United States and Malaysia over his central role in the scandal. He has agreed to give up a private jet, high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London, and other assets totalling US$700 million, the Justice Department said. That's on top of a US$126-million yacht and US$140 million of previously forfeited assets. If approved, the settlement will mark the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the Justice Department, it said. The deal does not include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing.

Malaysia's prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said the country will file a claim on the forfeited assets.

"The assets were bought with Malaysian money, we have proof that it was Malaysian money, we will now make a claim with the American government," Mahathir said.

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