US to return US$200 million in 1MDB funds to Malaysia: Sources

04 May 2019 / 09:48 H.

SINGAPORE: US authorities will this month return US$200 million (RM829 million) stolen from 1MDB, including money from a stake in a luxury New York hotel and from a Hollywood movie producer, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The US Department of Justice, in the biggest ever case in its anti-kleptocracy programme, is pursuing billions of dollars it says were misappropriated from 1MDB, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is working with at least six countries to recover about US$4.5 billion (RM19 billion) the US Department of Justice says was stolen from 1MDB.

“I think they know it is our money, so they will give back our money,“ Mahathir told a news conference after confirming the US$200 million (RM829 million) figure.

The tranche of money the United States will return includes US$140 million (RM580 million) from the sale of a stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel, after it was given up by fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, the two sources said.

Jho Low, the alleged mastermind behind the looting of 1MDB, is wanted by authorities on criminal charges. Low, whose whereabouts are not known, has denied wrongdoing.

The sources said the rest of the money was US$60 million (RM249 million) from Red Granite Pictures, co-founded by Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, which agreed in March 2018 to pay the US government to settle a civil lawsuit over allegations 1MDB money was used to finance the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.

Separately, Singapore police said on Friday that US$26 million (RM107 million) in 1MDB-related funds was in the process of being returned to Malaysia, the latest tranche in US$176 million (RM729 million) in cash and properties seized by the city-state relating to the scandal.

Malaysia recouped US$126 million (RM522 million) last month by selling superyacht, Equanimity, which was bought by Jho Low for US$250 million (RM1 billion) with funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB.

Malaysia has also filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for its role in raising money for 1MDB.

The investment bank says it conducted correct due diligence.

Prosecutors in the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn have said a former Goldman Sachs employee has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money. — Reuters

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