Tuesday, April 14, 2020
The Department of Justice announced today that it has repatriated to Malaysia approximately $300 million (RM 1.292 billion) in additional funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund, and laundered through financial institutions in several jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg.
Combined with other funds that the department previously returned to Malaysia in May 2019, the United States has returned or assisted Malaysia in recovering over $600 million (RM 2.6 billion) of funds misappropriated from 1MDB. The department’s efforts to recover funds misappropriated from 1MDB are continuing.
In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered judgments forfeiting more than $700 million in assets acquired by Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, and his family located in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. To date, the United States has recovered or assisted in the recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with the 1MDB international money laundering and bribery scheme. This represents the largest recovery to date under the department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the Justice Department.
“We are pleased to make this latest repatriation of an additional $300 million in stolen 1MDB funds,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The payment reflects the United States’ continuing commitment to the Malaysian people to hunt down, seize, forfeit, and return assets that were acquired in connection with this brazen scheme.”
“The repatriation of these stolen funds to the citizens of Malaysia is the result of the tireless efforts of prosecutors and federal agents to prevent foreign kleptocrats and their associates from using the United States as a playground where they can enjoy the fruits of their pilfered wealth,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna of the Central District of California. “The amount of money stolen from the people of Malaysia is staggering, and we have been relentless in recovering assets that always should have been used for their benefit.”
“The FBI’s International Corruption Squads are dedicated to protecting the United States from criminals attempting to benefit from our economy using their illicit, ill-gotten funds,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The repatriation announced today is a direct result of an FBI international corruption investigation, conclusively demonstrating that criminals will not be allowed to prosper in the United States. This money is now being returned to its rightful place – the country and people of Malaysia.”
“This extraordinary sum of money is going back to the people of Malaysia where it belongs and where it can finally be used for its original intended purpose—to better the lives of everyday Malaysians,” said Chief Don Fort of IRS-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI). “Mr. Low attempted to launder these assets through multiple international jurisdictions and a web of shell corporations, but his greed finally caught up with him. This case is a model for international cooperation in significant cross-border money laundering investigations.”
According to the civil forfeiture complaints, from 2009 through 2015, more than $4.5 billion in funds belonging to 1MDB were allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of 1MDB and their associates, including Low, through a criminal conspiracy involving international money laundering and bribery. 1MDB was created by the government of Malaysia to promote economic development in Malaysia through global partnerships and foreign direct investment, and its funds were intended to be used for improving the well-being of the Malaysian people. The assets subject to the 2019 judgments include high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London; a luxury boutique hotel in Beverly Hills; and tens of millions of dollars in business investments that Low allegedly made with funds traceable to misappropriated 1MDB monies.
The FBI’s International Corruption Squads in New York City and Los Angeles and the IRS-CI are investigating the case. Deputy Chief Woo S. Lee and Trial Attorneys Barbara Levy, Joshua L. Sohn and Jonathan Baum of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Kucera, Michael R. Sew Hoy and Steven R. Welk of the Central District of California are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs is providing substantial assistance.
The department also appreciates the significant assistance provided by the Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney General’s Chambers of Singapore, the Singapore Police Force-Commercial Affairs Division, the Office of the Attorney General and the Federal Office of Justice of Switzerland, the judicial investigating authority of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Criminal Investigation Department of the Grand-Ducal Police of Luxembourg.
The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and often with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered assets to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office. In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption. Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the U.S. should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail) or https://tips.fbi.gov/.
A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation that money or property was involved in or represents the proceeds of a crime. These allegations are not proven until a court awards judgment in favor of the United States.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.