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US govt returned RM233.7m of 1MDB funds given to Red Granite, says AG

KUALA LUMPUR (May 7): The US government has returned and will be returning substantial monies to Malaysia, representing the first instalment of funds recovered from asset seizures related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) under the US Department of Justice's (DoJ) Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, says Attorney General Tommy Thomas.

In a statement today, Thomas said the first tranche of returned funds of US$57.04 million (RM233.7 million) was credited into the 1MDB asset recovery account, a segregated trust account opened specifically for this purpose.

This sum was forfeited from Red Granite Pictures, a US-based film production company linked to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his stepson Riza Aziz, and arose from a US$60 million settlement recorded before the Court of California.

Red Granite is one of the four companies that produced the 2013 blockbuster film "Wolf of Wall Street" starring Hollywood A-list actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

From the US$60 million, a deduction of some US$3 million was made to reimburse costs incurred by the DoJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in investigating, seizing, litigating and securing settlement for the Red Granite funds. The amount deducted also include costs incurred by the DoJ and FBI in investigating, seizing and maintaining the superyacht Equanimity, when it was arrested in Indonesian waters before arriving in Malaysian waters.

To recap, DoJ recently announced that out of the US$4.5 billion wrongfully diverted from 1MDB, the value of assets that the DoJ is seeking to forfeit through its numerous civil forfeiture complaints filed from 2016 to 2019 is estimated to be US$1.7 billion. These assets include the luxury superyacht Equanimity, which was judicially sold by the Malaysian Admiralty Court last month for US$126 million.

On the same note, the DoJ is in the process of remitting a further sum of US$139 million which is the result of the sale of Jho Low's interest in Park Lane Hotel, Manhattan. It added that all costs incurred by the DoJ and FBI in investigating, seizing, litigating and securing settlement for the Park Lane asset will be deducted from this settlement sum, and the balance is expected to be credited into the 1MDB asset recovery account soon.

To date, Malaysia has recovered US$322 million (some RM1.3 billion) worth of 1MDB assets since the investigation into 1MDB effectively began after the 14th general election in May 2018.

A separate sum of S$50 million of funds traceable to 1MDB has been ordered by the Singapore courts to be repatriated. S$15 million was credited into 1MDB asset recovery account between September last year and March this year. The balance of S$35 million will be credited shortly.

"Such recovery could not be achieved without the assistance and excellent cooperation that the Malaysian authorities enjoy with our counterparts in the United States and Singapore," said Thomas.

"We express our gratitude to them. 1MDB asset recovery efforts across the globe are still ongoing, and Malaysia is optimistic of recovering further monies in the coming months," he added.

— theedgemarkets.com

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