The United States has started returning to Malaysia almost U.S. $200 million recovered from forfeitures and seizures of assets linked to scandal-plagued state fund 1MDB, the Malaysian government’s chief lawyer said Tuesday.
Attorney General Tommy Thomas said U.S. officials so far had deposited $57 million forfeited from Red Granite Pictures, a Hollywood film production company founded by former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz, who is facing allegations that he used embezzled 1MDB funds to finance blockbuster films.
“The Government of the United States of America has returned, and will be returning, substantial monies to Malaysia,” Thomas said in a statement.
“Malaysia has recovered U.S. $322 million (some 1.3 billion ringgit) worth of 1MDB assets since investigation into 1MDB effectively began (in May 2018),” he said, referring to the state fund formally known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Singapore has returned U.S. $11 million that had been traced to 1MDB, Thomas said, adding that an additional U.S. $25.7 million “will be credited shortly” to the recovery account.
“1MDB asset recovery efforts across the globe are still ongoing,” he said, “and Malaysia is optimistic of recovering further monies in the coming months.”
The Malaysian government’s announcement came a day after U.S. authorities placed ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng under house arrest following his extradition from Kuala Lumpur to face charges related to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused Ng of conspiring to launder money after he led the sale of bonds through Goldman Sachs in 2012 and 2013.
Ng, a Malaysian national, was charged with crimes he allegedly committed while employed as a managing director at the New York-based Goldman Sachs, which arranged three bond sales that raised more than U.S. $6 billion for 1MDB, according to indictment documents unsealed last year.
Peggy Kuo, a magistrate judge at the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, allowed Ng’s release after he posted a $1 million cash bail out of a U.S. $20 million bond. Ng was also ordered to wear an ankle bracelet, which would allow authorities to constantly monitor his movements within the state, officials told BenarNews.
Najib founded 1MDB in 2009 ostensibly to boost Malaysia’s economy through strategic investments.
But, according to U.S. prosecutors, 1MDB officials and their associates instead embezzled U.S. $4.5 billion from the sovereign wealth fund during a five-year period starting in 2009, diverting the money into private bank accounts and buying U.S. real estate, artwork, a yacht and a private jet, among other luxury items.
Najib is facing 42 criminal charges related to the 1MDB looting. He has pleaded not guilty.
Thomas said the U.S. DOJ was also in the process of remitting $139 million, after the sale of a Manhattan property linked to fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low. All costs incurred by the DOJ and the FBI in investigating and securing settlements would be deducted from the amount, he said.
Low has been described by investigators as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal. He has denied wrongdoing in statements distributed through his public relations agents. His whereabouts are unknown.