US seeks to seize over $1bn assets in Malaysian corruption case

(Reuters) – U.S. federal prosecutors are set to file civil lawsuits seeking to seize assets worth more than $1 billion linked to scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), media reports said on Wednesday.

Men walk past a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the fund's flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur

Men walk past a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the fund’s flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

Authorities are expected to file lawsuits in the United States as soon as Wednesday morning, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times said.

The Times said the U.S. government would seize assets worth more than $1 billion that it believes was stolen from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Reuters could not independently verify the report. 1MDB and the Malaysian prime minister’s office had no immediate comment.

The lawsuits said the alleged offences were committed over a four-year period and involved multiple individuals, including Malaysian officials and their associates, who conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB.

None of the lawsuits named Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

But they named Riza Aziz, his step-son, as a “relevant individual” in the case.

They also named Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, and Abu Dhabi government officials Khadem al-Qubaisi and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny.

The U.S. lawsuits said funds misappropriated from 1MDB were transferred to the co-founder of Petrosaudi, a company that had a joint venture with 1MDB, and thereafter to a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government it identified only as “Malaysian Official One.”

The assets involved in the case include penthouses, mansions, artwork and even a private jet.

“That misappropriation occurred in multiple phases over the course of several years,” the lawsuits said.

“The misappropriated funds were then used to purchase the Defendant Asset, as well as to fund the co-conspirators’ lavish lifestyles, including purchases of artwork and jewelry, the acquisition of luxury real estate, the payment of gambling expenses, and the hiring of musicians and celebrities to attend parties,” it added.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond, A. Ananthalakshmi and Joseph Sipalan; writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)


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