U.S. anti-corruption agency agrees settlement with rogue Malaysian financier
2019-12-13 16:55 Friday
The Department of Justice in the U.S. is attempting to settle an investigation into corruption by fugitive financier Jho Low. The department alleges that he is a crucial figure in the U.S.$ 4.5b Malaysian graft scheme known as 1MDB.
According to media report, officials are working to agree that, as part of the deal, Low will give up U.S.$ 700m in assets in the States, Switzerland and the UK.
Authorities maintain that about U.S.$ 4.5b were funneled from the strategic development company 1Malaysia Development Berhad, established in 2009 by then prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak.
In the past three years, the DOJ, in the biggest ever case in its anti-corruption program in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world, has filed civil lawsuits looking to seize about U.S.$ 1.7b in assets allegedly bought with funds stolen from 1MDB coffers.
In a statement issued on his behalf, Low called the agreement "historic". He faces charges in the States and Malaysia over his central position in the high-profile scandal.
The Department said Low agreed to forfeit high-end real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, a private jet, and other items totaling U.S.$ 700m, according to a statement and a court document filed earlier this month.
That haul is in addition to a U.S.$ 126m yacht and U.S.$ 140m in other assets previously given up. If the settlement is approved, it will mark the biggest civil forfeiture ever in a U.S. anti-corruption probe.
The deal doesn’t include any admission of wrongdoing or guilt and isn’t tied to the criminal case against Low, officials noted.
Low said in the statement: "I'm very pleased to confirm that a landmark comprehensive, global settlement has been reached with the U.S. government."
Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's current prime minister, said the country will file a claim on the forfeited assets.
"The assets were bought with Malaysian money. We have proof it was Malaysian money, we'll now make a claim with the United States government," he commented to press.
Earlier this year, the U.S. began returning U.S.$ 200m to Malaysia, after the sale of assets linked to 1MDB.
The scandal is the subject of investigations into corruption and money laundering in at least six countries, including several APAC nations.
Last year, police in Malaysian pushed for charges against Low and issued arrest warrants for him and a number of his associates whose location are unknown. The rogue financier has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
A spokesman for Low said that, regarding further negotiations: "If and when he's confident he will be safe and treated fairly, he looks forward to addressing any issues remaining."
In the past, Low remarked that he doesn't expect to get a fair hearing in Malaysia so long as Mahathir remains in office.
As well as officials in Malaysia and the UAE, U.S. bank Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have all become entangled in probes into the long-standing conspiracy.
Goldman Sachs said in October that it was cooperating with the DOJ and other government and regulatory investigations.
Malaysia has opened criminal charges against Goldman and seventeen former and current directors of the bank's departments for allegedly misleading investors over sales of bonds totaling around U.S.$ 6.5b that it helped raise for 1MDB.