WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department announced on Tuesday (Apr 14) it had sent US$300 million in funds stolen in the 1MDB corruption scandal to the Malaysia government that had been laundered through the global financial system.
Combined with other funds handed over nearly one year ago, the Justice Department said it has now returned or helped Malaysia recover more than US$1 billion in funds and assets lost in the scam.
READ: Malaysia recovers US$322 million in stolen 1MDB money
“The repatriation of these stolen funds to the citizens of Malaysia is the result of the tireless efforts of prosecutors and federal agents to prevent foreign kleptocrats and their associates from using the United States as a playground where they can enjoy the fruits of their pilfered wealth,” said US Attorney Nick Hanna in a statement.
“The amount of money stolen from the people of Malaysia is staggering, and we have been relentless in recovering assets that always should have been used for their benefit.”
The money was a part of the more than US$4.5 billion that US investigators say was looted from the state-owned investment firm, with alleged help from Malaysian ex-prime minister Najib Razak and his inner circle.
READ: ‘Rosmah wasn’t scolding me’: Najib on leaked audio clips related to 1MDB scandal
The US says that from 2009 to 2015, high-level officials of 1MDB and a high-flying young businessman named Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, siphoned off the billions originally meant to fund state investments.
READ: In record deal, US to recover US$1 billion from Malaysian fugitive Jho Low
Low used a lot of the money to buy luxurious homes and top-level art and invest in Hollywood movies, including the Martin Scorsese hit “Wolf of Wall Street.”
The Justice Department seized most of Low’s assets and has been slowly liquidating them for return to Malaysia.