US reaches settlement to recover over $70 million involving Malaysia’s 1MDB

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KUALA LUMPUR – The United States has reached a to more than US$49 (S$70 million) Malaysian sovereign wealth fund , the Department of Justice said.

The government of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak set up the 1MDB fund in 2009. The US Justice Department has estimated that more than US$4.5 billion was siphoned out of Malaysia by high-level fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014 in a scandal that has also embroiled Goldman Sachs Group.

The DOJ said in a statement dated May 6 it has settled its civil forfeiture cases against assets acquired by the former managing director of Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), Khadem al-Qubaisi, using funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB and laundered through financial institutions in several jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg.

IPIC had guaranteed bonds for 1MDB in 2012, arranged by Goldman. Al-Qubaisi is reported to have been sentenced to prison for 15 years in 2019.

With this and prior related forfeiture cases, the United States will have recovered or assisted in the recovery of nearly US$1.1 billion in assets associated with 1MDB, representing the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the agency, the DOJ said.

The Atlantic Property Trust, which oversees the assets at issue in these forfeiture actions, has agreed to forfeit all assets subject to pending forfeiture complaints in which they have a potential interest.

The trustee, who is the wife of al-Qubaisi, is also required to cooperate and assist the Justice Department in the orderly transfer, management and disposition of the relevant assets, the DOJ said.

Efforts to contact the trust were not immediately successful.

The assets subject to the settlement agreement include the sale proceeds of high-end real estate in Beverly Hills as well as a luxury penthouse in New York City that al-Qubaisi allegedly acquired with funds traceable to misappropriated 1MDB monies, the agency said.

Assistant Attorney-General Brian A. Benczkowski of the agency’s Criminal Division said the settlement “sends a clear signal that the Department of Justice is committed to tracing, seizing, and forfeiting criminal proceeds that are laundered through the US financial system”.

The DOJ said several related civil forfeiture complaints remain pending against assets associated with other alleged co-conspirators.

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