Malaysia meets US ambassador over DOJ’s 1MDB suit

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman met American ambassador Joseph Y. Yun today over a press conference of the US Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to seize assets purchased with money allegedly stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said Anifah had also mentioned that Malaysia has yet to receive any request from the US to obtain any information or evidence for the filing of the civil case.

“However, Malaysia is ready to fully cooperate with any lawful investigation of Malaysian companies in accordance with international protocols, provided that Malaysia and the United States work together on this matter,” said the Foreign Affairs Ministry in a statement sent to Malay Mail Online.

“Malaysia highly values its bilateral relations with the United States and calls on the US to recognise the various steps taken by the government of Malaysia to address the 1MDB issue,” it added, without furnishing further details about the meeting between Anifah and Yun at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Putrajaya.

The US Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit yesterday seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than US$1 billion in assets linked to what it described as an “international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated” from 1MDB, the largest case ever brought by the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

The lawsuit was announced by US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a press conference that was broadcast live.

US prosecutors said more than US$3.5 billion in 1MDB funds were allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of the local state investment firm and their associates between 2009 and 2015.

The funds allegedly embezzled and laundered into the US were purportedly used to buy luxury properties in New York, Los Angeles and London, paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, a US$35 million jet, as well as to pay for gambling debts in Las Vegas.

Malaysia enjoys strong ties with the US. US president Barack Obama visited Malaysia twice in the last two years. The US president had played golf with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in December 2014.

Malaysia under the Najib administration joined the US-driven Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a free trade treaty in the Pacific that also involves 10 other countries.

However, Malaysia also has close relations with China. 1MDB announced last December that a consortium comprising Chinese state-owned firm China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and Johor-based Iskandar Waterfront Holdings would purchase a 60 per cent stake in its Bandar Malaysia land.

China had also come to the rescue over 1MDB’s debt problems when state-owned firm China General Nuclear Power Corporation purchased 1MDB’s energy assets in Edra Global Energy Bhd last November for US$2.3 billion (RM9.8 billion).

CREC also announced last March that it would spend US$2 billion (RM8.1 billion) to set up its regional centre in Bandar Malaysia. Local daily The Star reported last April that CREC is also keen to bid for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project.

Earlier today, Najib urged the public to respect the judicial process and not to jump to conclusions over the US Justice Department’s lawsuit.

Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali reiterated earlier today that local investigations by multiple agencies did not uncover any criminal activity at 1MDB and no criminal prosecution has been initiated in any jurisdiction either. – MMO.