DOJ Seeks $540M in Stolen Malaysian Funds

Nearly US$30 million (S$41 million) of funds stolen from scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was used to buy jewellery for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wife, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace, according to the latest filings by the US Justice Department in a civil lawsuit.The production company Red Granite Pictures is accused of using millions of dollars meant for the people and environment of Malaysia to fund movie productions.US authorities, in civil complaints, have accused Malaysian financier Jho Low of laundering more than $400 million stolen from 1MDB through an account in the United States, where he lavished his associates, including DiCaprio, with money to gamble and luxury goods.This time previous year, U.S. prosecutors filed civil asset-forfeiture suits against more than US$1bil (RM4.27bil) worth of artworks, real estate and other assets owned by several individuals.Najib’s press secretary Tengku Sariffuddin separately voiced concern that the Justice Department didn’t seek co-operation from the Malaysian government or 1MDB.In a statement that came after DoJ’s announcement last night, the firm said it noted the civil lawsuit filed by the department against certain assets.Abu Talib said in any event, the DoJ has to prove its case in court to seize all the assets.DiCaprio, who starred in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and reportedly accepted gifts, including artwork and an Oscar originally won by Marlon Brando in 1955, to raise money for his foundation, is cooperating with the government, a spokesman told the WSJ. She described a “web of lies and bogus transactions” and said “we simply will not allow the United States to be a place where corrupt individuals can expect to hide assets and lavishly spend money that should be used for the benefit of citizens of other nations”. Last summer, prosecutors moved to recover more than $1 billion diverted from the fund to pay for properties in NY and California, a $35 million jet, art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet and to help finance the movies, “Dumb and Dumber To” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”. And though there are no plans at this time for DiCaprio to forfeit the money he received for his work on “The Wolf of Wall Street”, his spokesperson notes that DiCaprio intends to offer the return of any “gifts or donations” under speculation with “the aid and instruction of the government”.”Malaysian financier and art collector Jho Low, an associate of DiCaprio, also had considerable influence on the fund, and has been the subject of investigation for its misuse of money -though the government complaint repeatedly mentions that Low had ‘no official position'”.”Mr DiCaprio is grateful for the support of the government in this effort, and continues to hope that justice is done in this matter”.The three films were produced by Red Granite, which was founded by Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz.