PUTRAJAYA, Dec 5 – US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions yesterday revealed that nearly half of the US$3.5 billion corruption proceeds seized by the US was related to the 1MDB enforcement action.
Speaking at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery hosted by the US and UK in Washington, Sessions hit out at the 1MDB issue, calling it “kleptocracy at its worst”.
“1MDB was created by the Malaysian government to promote long-term economic development for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
“But allegedly corrupt officials and their associates reportedly used the funds for a lavish spending spree: US$200 million for real estate in Southern California and New York. US$130 million in artwork. US$100 million in an American music label. Not to mention a US$265 million yacht,” he said in remarks carried on the US Department of Justice (DoJ) website.
Sessions said 1MDB officials had allegedly laundered more than US$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”.
“Today, the US DoJ is working to provide justice to the victims of this alleged scheme,” he added.
In court filings in California on June 5, the DoJ sought to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets, including art works, jewellery, a luxury yacht and film rights purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.
The assets named in the applications included the film rights to the two comedies “Dumb and Dumber To” starring Jim Carrey and “Daddy’s Home” featuring Will Ferrell.
The action followed the DoJ’s civil forfeiture suit in June last year which sought to recover all the assets, including, but not limited to, the Park Lane Hotel in New York, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, condominiums in New York, a private jet and expensive works of art, as well as finances related to Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who until last year was the chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Both Najib and Apandi have slammed the US forfeiture actions, suggesting that they are politically motivated.
In his speech, Sessions said everyone, whether prosecutors, judges or legislators, had a responsibility to pursue the common good for the people they served.
“While each of us has limited jurisdiction, we must recognise that the consequences of our actions can be felt around the world.
“You can be sure of this: the United States will do our part. And we urge every government to do their part, as well,” he said.