US reaches $1bn settlement over 1MDB scam

The US Department of Justice has reached a settlement in its case against assets acquired by Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, and his family.

Jho Low allegedly misappropriated funds from Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and laundered that money through the US, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg.

The US has now settled to recover USD $700 million (over AUD $1 billion) in assets traceable to corruption involving the sovereign wealth fund.

The assets to be recovered are in addition to a $120 million super yacht already seized by the US while it was sailing off the coast of Indonesia and $140 million in assets forfeited in connection with Low's Park Lane Hotel investment in New York City.

With the conclusion of this settlement, the US will have recovered more than USD $1 billion in assets associated with the 1MDB scheme, which Low was allegedly at the helm of.

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.

"As alleged in the complaints, Low and others, including officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, engaged in a brazen multi-year conspiracy to launder money embezzled or otherwise misappropriated from 1MDB, and he used those funds, among other things, to engage in extravagant spending sprees, acquiring one-of-kind artwork and luxury real estate, gambling freely at casinos, and propping up his lavish lifestyle," said assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the US Justice Department's Criminal Division.

Low and his family will be forced to relinquish the hundreds of millions of dollars in question - which were intended to be used for the benefit of the Malaysian people through the sovereign wealth fund.

"A staggering amount of money embezzled from 1MDB at the expense of the people of Malaysia was laundered through the purchase of big-ticket assets in the US and other nations," said US Attorney Nicola Hanna of the Central District of California.

"The message in this case is simple: the United States is not a safe haven for pilfered funds. Our strict anti-money laundering controls are effective, and we will seize assets used by criminals to conceal ill-gotten gains."

Between 2009 and 2015 more than $4.5 billion in funds belonging to 1MDB were allegedly misappropriated by high level officials of the sovereign wealth fund, including Low.

Low is facing charges in New York for conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act but is still at large.

Read more: MalaysiaLow Taek JhoUS Department of JusticeUSD1Malaysia Development BerhadAttorney General Brian Benczkowski
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