WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it has returned an additional $452 million stolen from Malaysia’s investment fund known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), bringing the total amount of money repatriated to the Malaysian government in the last five years to at least $1.2 billion.
The funds had been laundered through international financial institutions in the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg, the Justice Department said in a statement.
1MDB was created in 2009 to raise billions of dollars through global partnerships and foreign direct investment to “improve the well-being of the Malaysian people,” according to the Justice Department.
Instead, senior 1MDB officials, associates and businessman Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, are accused of embezzling more than $4.5 billion from the fund between 2009 and 2015, according to the Justice Department.
In a scandal that shocked the financial world, prosecutors say the executives spent the pilfered money on luxury items such as expensive homes and properties in Beverly Hills, New York and London; a 300-foot superyacht; and fine art by Monet and Van Gogh. Some of the embezzled money was used to bribe foreign officials.
Since 2016, the Justice Department says it has recovered more than $1.7 billion in assets stolen from the Malaysian fund. Efforts to recover additional assets linked to the corruption scandal continue, the department says.
The scandal has entangled major financial institutions and high-level executives. Last year, New York-based Goldman Sachs agreed to pay more than $2.9 billion to settle civil and criminal charges brought in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and elsewhere.
In 2018, a federal grand jury in New York indicted Jho and former Goldman Sachs executive Ng Chong Hwa, also known as Roger Ng, on charges of conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials.
Ng was extradited from Malaysia to the United States in 2019. Jho remains a fugitive.
In June, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., returned a superseding indictment against Jho and Haitian American rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, accusing them of waging a back-channel campaign to stop the Justice Department’s investigation of the 1MDB scheme.