U.S. prosecutors are trying to seize more than $1 billion in assets they said were tied to money stolen from the Malaysian state fund, overseen by the prime minister, and used to finance “The Wolf of Wall Street” film, and to buy property and works of art.
Civil lawsuits filed in federal court on Wednesday did not name Malaysian premier Najib Razak, referring instead to “Malaysian Official 1.” Some of the allegations against this official are the same as those in a Malaysian investigation over a $681 million transfer to his personal bank account.
The U.S. Department of Justice said $681 million from a 2013 bond sale by sovereign wealth fund 1MDB was transferred to the account of “Malaysian Official 1.” He is described in court papers as “a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government who also held a position of authority with 1MDB.”
A source familiar with the investigation confirmed that “Malaysian Official 1” is Najib.
Back in Malaysia, the hashtag #MalaysianOfficial1 was trending on Thursday.
A spokesman for the prime minister said in a statement that 1MDB has been the subject of multiple inquiries in Malaysia and “the Attorney General found that no crime was committed.”
The Malaysian government will cooperate fully with any lawful investigations, the statement said. Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The investigation is the largest set of cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which seeks the forfeiture of the proceeds of foreign corruption. The previous largest case in February sought to seize $850 million.
1MDB, which Najib founded in 2009 shortly after he came to office, is being investigated for money laundering in at least six countries, including the United States, Singapore and Switzerland.
Singapore’s central bank said on Thursday authorities have seized assets worth S$240 million in an investigation of 1MDB-related fund flows for possible money laundering, securities fraud, cheating and other offenses.
About half the seized assets belonged to Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, known as “Jho Low”, and his immediate family.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore said its probe found “deficiencies” at several major banks in the city-state.
1MDB said in a statement “it is not a party to the civil suit, does not have any assets in the United States of America, nor has it benefited from the various transactions described in the civil suit.”
The fund said it has not been contacted by the Justice Department or any other foreign agency on the matter.