US authorities filed lawsuits Wednesday seeking the seizure of more than US$1 billion in assets suspected to be linked to a scheme to launder money stolen from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB.
Civil lawsuits filed in a federal court referred to “Malaysian Official 1″ in the complaint, a reference believed to be of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had overseen the state fund.
The Justice Department said US$681 million from a 2013 bond sale by 1MDB was transferred to the account of “Malaysian Official 1″, who is described in court papers as “a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government who also held a position of authority with 1MDB”, Reuters reported.
Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB dealings.
Money was stolen from the fund, moved through shell companies and hidden in the US in purchases of high-end property and luxury items, US prosecutors said.
The people and institutions named in the complaint have not been charged with crimes, but the government wants to seize assets, among them luxury properties in New York and California, Monet and Van Gogh paintings and a Bombardier jet.
The Justice Department said it will seek to return recovered funds to Malaysia.
“The Malaysian people were defrauded on an enormous scale …” FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said at a briefing in Washington.
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