31 October 2019
US Justice Department reaches a wide-ranging settlement with Malaysian fugitive financier Jho Low (in picture) wanted by Malaysia and Singapore for 1MDB probe. The DOJ statement said that this settlement represents the largest recovery to date under the department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the largest civil forfeiture that it ever concluded. Jho Low has confirmed this in an email statement. The settlement could be filed in a California court as soon as this week, according to Bloomberg.
The action by the US Department of Justice serves as a warning that it would not allow the US financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption by officials around the world. The reports said the settlement will involve the recovery of funds from the sale of properties in Los Angeles, London and New York, as well as a Bombardier plane currently impounded at Singapore’s Seletar Airport in Singapore. The settlement is also expected to include a large chunk of investment in private equity.
The settlement does not include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing and is not tied to the criminal action against Low. Malaysian and US authorities have said at least US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by Low and other high-level officials of the fund and their associates.
Over the past year or so, several of Low’s assets, presumably bought with money which he misappropriated from 1MDB, have been sold. They include his superyacht, The Equanimity, and most recently, his London office. Najib Razak who lost the elections last year partly because of allegations of his involvement in the plunder, is facing 42 charges for his role in losses at the fund and companies linked to it. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that recouping the 1MDB’s losses amounting to over US$4.5 billion is one of his government priorities.
It is not clear how much of the recovered money the US DOJ will give to the Malaysian government. Malaysia is separately seeking some US$3.3 billion in compensation from Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank which raised bonds for 1MDB.The country’s attorney general, Tommy Thomas, said in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review earlier this month that two rounds of talks have taken place between his officials and the US bank, with the gulf remaining “very wide”. Some 17 current and former Goldman executives are facing criminal charges for their role in the saga. Others include the Najib Razak former prime minister and head of 1MDB, Irwan Serigar Abdullah, former Treasury secretary-general, and Arul Kanda Kandasamy, a former 1MDB chief executive.
Low has denied wrongdoing but has said he will not return to face justice in Malaysia because he has no faith in the justice system under Mahathir’s government.
The Edge Markets and South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.