U.S. lawsuits link Malaysian leader to stolen money from 1MDB fund

Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:50am EDT
 
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By Rozanna Latiff and Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday judgment should be withheld until all the facts are known after the U.S. government filed lawsuits seeking to seize $1 billion in assets bought with money stolen from a state fund he oversaw.

The U.S. Justice Department lawsuits filed in a federal court on Wednesday did not name Najib, instead referring to "Malaysian Official 1." Some of the allegations against this official were the same as those in a Malaysian investigation into a $681 million transfer to the premier's personal bank account.

The lawsuits said $681 million from a 2013 bond sale by sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was transferred to the account of "Malaysian Official 1".

A source familiar with the investigation confirmed that "Malaysian Official 1" was Najib.

In Malaysia, the hashtag #MalaysianOfficial1 was trending on Thursday.

The civil lawsuits said that a total of $3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, a fund Najib established in 2009 and whose advisory board he chaired.

No criminal charges have been filed.

Swiss authorities said on Thursday that, acting on a U.S. request, they had seized three valuable paintings, by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, connected to the 1MDB inquiry. A Swiss Federal Office of Justice spokeswoman said, "The operation is not over yet so we will not comment at the moment on the location of the paintings."   Continued...

 
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at the opening of a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo