Malaysian financier to give up claims to millions of dollars

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A fugitive financier will give up claims to hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury goods prosecutors say were purchased with money stolen from a Malaysian investment fund, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Under the settlement with U.S. prosecutors, the financier, Jho Low, relinquishes claims to assets that were seized by U.S. officials beginning in 2016, the person said. The settlement would also allow millions of dollars in fees to be paid to Low’s legal team.

The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The settlement comes about three years after the Justice Department moved to recover more than $1 billion that it said had been stolen. It had filed a civil complaint that sought the forfeiture of property, including a Manhattan penthouse, a Beverly Hills mansion, a luxury jet and paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

The Justice Department confirmed the settlement late Wednesday. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said: “The message in this case is simple: the United States is not a safe haven for pilfered funds. Our strict anti-money laundering controls are effective, and we will seize assets used by criminals to conceal ill-gotten gains.”

Low issued a statement calling the settlement “the result of good faith discussions between the parties.”

Low was charged last year by federal prosecutors in New York. They accused him of being involved in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from the Malaysian investment fund. It was the first criminal prosecutions in the U.S. arising from the corruption scandal at the state investment fund known as 1MDB.

The indictment against Low, who is also known as Low Taek Jho, accuses him of misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the United States and to help finance Hollywood movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was set up in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development. It relied primarily on debt to fund investment and economic development projects and was overseen by senior Malaysian government officials, according to court records.

Najib set up 1MDB when he took office in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts, and U.S. investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates.

Public anger over the corruption allegations contributed to the shocking election defeat of Najib’s long-ruling coalition in May 2018.

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