US to return $196M to Malaysia from seized assets linked to 1MDB

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Malaysia’s attorney general said Tuesday that the U.S. will return $196 million recovered from seized assets linked to the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund, part of which has already been repatriated.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas said Malaysia has received a first tranche of $57 million that came from a settlement reached with Red Granite Pictures Inc., the production company behind the 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Red Granite, owned by the stepson of former Malaysian leader Najib Razak, paid the U.S. government $60 million last year to settle claims that it benefited from the 1MDB scandal. Thomas said the U.S. withheld $3 million to cover its investigation costs.

The funds, totaling $57.04 million, were sent to an account specially set up to receive recovered 1MDB funds, Thomas said in a statement.

U.S. prosecutors allege that the film company, co-founded by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, was funded by money stolen from 1MDB.

As well as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Red Granite also produced the Jim Carrey hit “Dumb and Dumber To” and “Daddy’s Home,” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

Prosecutors had made claims for profits generated by all three films as part of their case.

The DoJ is also in the process of returning a further $139 million of looted funds that came from the sale of a stake in the Park Lane Hotel in New York, Thomas said.

It was bought by Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who was accused a playing a central role in plundering 1MDB, he said.

Low is also believed to have bought a luxury yacht with about $250 million of looted cash.

U.S. investigators say more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014 and authorities are working to recover some $1.7 billion. They say the ill-gotten gains were laundered through layers of bank accounts in the U.S. and other countries to finance Hollywood films and buy hotels, a luxury yacht, art works, jewelry and other extravagances.

Some $700 million from the fund that Najib set up for Malaysia’s economic development allegedly landed in his own bank account. Anger over the 1MDB scandal led to the spectacular election defeat of Najib’s long-ruling coalition a year ago. Najib is now on trial for multiple counts of corruption linked to 1MDB.

Thomas said Malaysia’s government has recovered a total of $322 million worth of 1MDB assets so far.

Apart from the U.S. recoveries, Singapore is also returning 50 million Singapore dollars ($36.7 million) in funds linked to 1MDB and the government sold a luxury yacht bought with 1MDB funds by Low for $126 million, Thomas said.

“1MDB asset recovery efforts across the globe are still ongoing and Malaysia is optimistic of recovering further monies in the coming months,” he said.