Claimants to any 1MDB-linked assets worth RM680 million which were seized by the authorities have until August 30 to file their legal challenge for ownership, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled yesterday.
Putrajaya has mounted its largest ever civil forfeiture suit against 18 parties, including former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansor, and his children Riza Aziz, Nor Ashman, and Nooryana Najwa, for assets seized from them in the aftermath of the last general election.
The government and police filed a forfeiture suit on May 8 against the 18 respondents to seize hundreds of items, including 27 Nissan vehicles, RM18 million from accounts belonging to 10 people, and a bungalow belonging to the family of Jho Low.
Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali made his ruling yesterday after another court approved an application by prosecutors for a three-month gazette notice, which called on parties to contest ownership by August 30.
At a hearing presided over by Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohd Zaini Mazlan, prosecutors filed the gazette notice under Section 56 and 61(2) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
The government wants to acquire assets that were seized between May last year and March this year, on grounds that those assets were acquired through money stolen from the sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Nazlan set August 30 for case management for the forfeiture suit.
Of the 18 respondents, three – Kee Kok Thiam, Tan Vern Tact and Geh Choh Hun, formerly directors of Javace Sdn Bhd, UBG Bhd, and Majestic Masterpiece Sdn Bhd respectively – did not send legal representatives to court.
The firms were controlled by Jho Low who is believed to be hiding in China.
The three could not be served papers because they have “run away,” the Kuala Lumpur High Court was told.
Deputy public prosecutor Fatnin Yusof informed judge Zaini Mazlan that the prosecution will apply for the hearing to proceed without Geh Choh Hun, Mohd Kyizzad Mesran and Aiman Ruslan.
Geh, a close confidant of 1MDB-linked businessperson Low Taek Jho, used to chair the 1Malaysia Welfare Club of Penang. The club organised dinners and distributed cash to several organisations during the 2013 general election.
Kyizzad was formerly an officer with the Prime Minister’s Department in the asset management section. Aiman, meanwhile, was formerly of the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais).