Wed, Dec 06, 2017 - Page 6 News List

1MDB saga is ‘kleptocracy at its worst’: Jeff Sessions

Reuters, KUALA LUMPUR

The US attorney-general described a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving a Malaysian state fund as the worst form of kleptocracy, and said the US Department of Justice (DOJ) was working to provide justice to the victims.

The department in June filed several lawsuits to seize more than US$1.7 billion in assets believed to have been stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a sovereign fund set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions on Monday said the 1MDB-linked assets accounted for nearly half of about US$3.5 billion in total proceeds seized or restrained by the DOJ, tied to money laundering offences.

“This is kleptocracy at its worst,” Sessions said at a global forum on asset recovery in Washington according to a transcript of his speech posted on the department’s Web site, referring to the Malaysian case.

“Today, the US Department of Justice is working to provide justice to the victims of this alleged scheme,” he said.

Sessions said “allegedly corrupt officials” in 1MDB had reportedly spent US$200 million on real estate in southern California and New York, US$130 million on artwork, invested US$100 million in a US music label and US$265 million on a yacht.

“In total, 1MDB officials allegedly laundered more thanUS$4.5 billion in funds through a complex web of opaque transactions and fraudulent shell companies with bank accounts in countries ranging from Switzerland and Singapore to Luxembourg and the United States,” Sessions said.

He did not identify any of the officials he thought were corrupt.

Officials at 1MDB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sessions said the DOJ’s anti-kleptocracy initiative had returned at least US$254 million in corruption proceeds to the people of Italy, Khazakhstan and Peru, and millions more to the people of Taiwan, Nicaragua and South Korea since 2004.

1MDB was once a pet project of Najib, who chaired its advisory board until last year.

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