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US Justice Department Returns More Than $1 Billion in Stolen Malaysian Funds

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.

FILE — Construction work­ers chat in front of a bill­board for state invest­ment fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) at the fund’s flag­ship Tun Razak Exchange devel­op­ment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 14, 2015.

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.

FILE — Former Goldman Sachs exec­u­tive Roger Ng, cen­ter, leaves Brooklyn Federal court with attor­ney Marc Agnifilo, right, May 6, 2019, in New York.

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.

VoaNews.Com By Masood Farivar

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