World

US to seize $747m in assets from 1MDB

Malaysia criticises move as 'domestic political manipulation and interference'


The Malaysian government has slammed the move by the United States authorities to seize US$540 million (S$747 million) in assets allegedly stolen from state investor 1MDB.

It said the Department of Justice (DoJ) had failed to seek cooperation from both the government and 1MDB's management over the matter.

The press secretary of Prime Minister Najib Razak, Tengku Sarifuddin Tengku Ahmad, in a statement yesterday expressed concern over the "unnecessary and gratuitous" naming of certain matters and individuals which he claimed are only relevant to "domestic political manipulation and interference".

In its third civil lawsuit filing on Thursday, the DoJ said it has taken action to recover misappropriated assets from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

These included a pink diamond necklace worth US$27.3 million allegedly bought for the wife of PM Najib, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, by businessman Low Taek Jho, who has said he was an unofficial adviser to 1MDB in its early years in 2009.

Tengku Sarifuddin said the public disclosure of the case "suggests a motivation that goes beyond the objective of seizing assets".

In an e-mail statement through a representative, Mr Low said the DoJ's actions were "a further example of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case", Reuters reported yesterday.

The DoJ is alleging that more than US$4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB, a sovereign fund set up by PM Najib in 2009.

"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," Mr Kenneth Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney-General, said in a statement when unveling its latest suit.

(The DoJ's actions were) a further example of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case. Businessman Low Taek Jho

The DoJ's move was its first in the 1MDB case under the five-month-old Donald Trump administration.

Opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang has urged Mr Najib to resolve the "bigger" 1MDB scandal with similar conviction he had shown towards dealing with the financial crisis engulfing Felda Global Ventures, a plantation company linked closely to the premier's Malay voter base.

'REPEAT'

Malaysia's Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali yesterday called the latest filing a "repeat" of last year's suit.

He said that there is no evidence of misappropriation of 1MDB funds, nor has there been any criminal charges against any individual.

1MDB in its statement noted that the civil lawsuit does not contain any appendices with documentary proof or witness statements to support the allegations.

Amid talk of a general election soon, political analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani said: "The allegations in the filing is quite damning but will the opposition be able to... capitalise on this? I think not."

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