Hoo-hah a second time round with DoJ’s recent filing of a lawsuit to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets it said were bought using money siphoned off from 1MDB.
Since last week’s DoJ’s lawsuit in connection with its 1MDB probe, which caused a stir, much has been happening at breakneck speed. With this chronology of highlights, you can play catch-up on the developments that took place.
Jul 20, 2016
Almost a year ago, US prosecutors launched one of the largest asset seizures in the US history with the DoJ filing lawsuits in Los Angeles in connection with its 1MDB probe. They sought to seize more than US$1 billion worth of assets “involved in and traceable to an international conspiracy to launder money misappropriated from 1MDB”.
The lawsuits said the alleged offences were committed from 2009 through 2015 and involved multiple individuals, including Malaysian officials and their associates, who conspired to fraudulently divert billions of dollars from 1MDB.
Names of Malaysians mentioned as “relevant individuals” were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s step-son Riza Aziz and flamboyant businessman Jho Low. Also implicated was a high-ranking official in the Malaysian government identified only as “Malaysian Official One” (MO1).
The assets the DoJ sought included luxury properties, artworks, a private jet and funds used to finance the film The Wolf of Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the film produced by Red Granite, a company led by Riza.
The misappropriated funds were said to have been also used for the payment of gambling expenses, and hiring musicians and celebrities to attend parties.
The complaint filed said that US$731 millIon from 1MDB was deposited into bank accounts belonging to MO1.
Jun 15, 2017
Fast forward to last week, US prosecutors said they have identified another US$540 million of assets allegedly stolen from 1MDB that can be seized.
Together with last year’s complaint, the DoJ was seeking nearly US$1.7 billion in assets.
“Today’s complaints reveal another chapter of this multiyear, multi-billion-dollar fraud scheme, bringing the total identified stolen proceeds to US$4.5 billion.
“This money financed the lavish lifestyles of the alleged co-conspirators at the expense and detriment of the Malaysian people,” acting US Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement.
Among the assets that the DoJ are attempting to seize are diamonds, paintings, a luxury yacht and the film rights to two other Hollywood films allegedly financed by the siphoned funds – Daddy’s Home, which starred Mark Wahlberg, and Jim Carrey’s comedy Dumb and Dumber. Both films were produced by Red Granite.
Meanwhile, actor Leonardo DiCaprio turned over an Oscar won by Marlon Brando to US investigators probing 1MDB. The Oscar statuette was given to DiCaprio as a gift by Red Granite to thank him for his work on The Wolf of Wall Street.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said police won’t interfere in US probe into 1MDB as it was a civil action.
A non-governmental organisation lodged a police report against four people for allegedly being in cahoots with foreign powers to rehash issues relating to 1MDB.
The four individuals are former Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel, Suaram co-founder R Sivarasa, lawyer Matthias Chang and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) president Datuk Azwanddin Hamzah said, “The issue is not new as it was raised last year. These are baseless accusations.”
He claimed the issue was recycled with the intent to undermine the credibility of the prime minister and other national leaders.
1MDB said in a statement that it has not been contacted by the DoJ. It also noted that the DoJ’s civil lawsuit does not contain any appendices with documentary proof or witness statements to support the allegations.
“As previously stated, 1MDB will fully cooperate with any foreign lawful authority, subject to international protocols governing such matters and the advice of the relevant domestic lawful authorities,” it said.
1MDB has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia (AGC) also released a statement. It expressed its frustration that yet again it was not informed or alerted by the DOJ of the complaint.
Attorney-General Apandi Ali dismissed it as “nothing new” and a repeat of the first action.
“1MDB is a Malaysian company and has been the subject of multiple investigations within Malaysia, including by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Auditor-General and the bi-partisan Public Accounts Committee.
“After review, we found that no crime was committed,” he said.
Apandi added that there was an “ongoing investigation” being conducted by the police concerning 1MDB.
He also said that he was concerned with insinuations of criminal wrongdoing against Najib.
“At no point in the civil claims is the Prime Minister named as a defendant or has been alleged to have committed any criminal wrongdoing,” he said.
PM’s Press Secretary
Meanwhile, the PM’s press secretary Tengku Sarifuddin Tengku Ahmad said that Putrajaya was also concerned with the “unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals”, accusing the move of going beyond seizing assets.
He quoted DoJ’s own press release, which states that: “A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation that money or property was involved in or represents the proceeds of a crime. These allegations are not proven until a court awards judgment in favour of the US”.
“The judicial process is not served by headline seeking,” he said.
He added that Malaysia stands firm in its support of transparency and good governance.
“That includes ensuring that accusations have a basis in fact, rather than smears briefed by political opponents.
“We are confident that justice will take its course and Malaysia will continue to cooperate with all willing international agencies.
“As the Prime Minister has always maintained, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception,” Tengku Sarifuddin said.
Jho Low’s Citizenship
Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng urged the government to take action following the disclosure by the DoJ that Penang-born businessman Low Taek Jho holds dual citizenship.
According to the DoJ’s latest lawsuit regarding 1MDB, Low holds a Malaysian passport as well as a passport from the West Indies’ island of St Kitts and Nevis.
Lim said this breached the Federal Constitution, which does not recognise dual nationality.
“The government either has to rebut Washington through diplomatic channels if Jho Low has only a Malaysian citizenship, or lodge a police report against him if our Federal Constitution has indeed been breached,” he said in a statement.
“A deafening silence from the government is tantamount to the DoJ’s latest lawsuit being true,” Lim said.
Another non-governmental organisation lodged a police report against the same four individuals named by JMM for their alleged involvement with the DoJ.
Pertubuhan Jaringan Rakyat Malaysia (PJRM) said they believe the quartet leads an “organisation” and acts as agents for America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to topple the Malaysian government.
“Since it is close to the general election, they are coming out with all sorts of old issues to (discredit the government).
“Their aim has always been to (bring) down the government, and I believe this has been planned for quite a while,” PJRM president Ng Lum Yong said.
The prime minister’s wife said that she will sue anyone who makes baseless attacks against her.
A statement issued by her law firm Messrs Noor Hajran Mohd Noor said: “We are closely monitoring all postings appearing in any social media platforms and other forms of publications in relation to false and malicious attacks on me.”
“More specifically, publications and postings with unverified sources and baseless contents framed and intended as an indirect hate and gutter political attacks,” the statement said, adding that any further posts of such nature would face legal action.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said it will not investigate 1MDB over allegations of financial improprieties as it does not want to overlap with investigations already started by the police.
Its chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad said that it had been decided among relevant government agencies that investigations on 1MDB would be done solely by the police.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the DoJ should take legal action against MO1. He said the DoJ is being “irresponsible” and would only lose its credibility for continuously making “baseless” allegations, without considering a legal action.
He added DoJ will be doing a “big favour” to everyone by revealing who MO1 actually is.
“If they have proof they should charge, but until then, how would we know who is actually MO1,” he said.
The prime minister said too many statements have been made on the DoJ issue and there was no need for him to add further comments.
Like JMM and PJRM, Pertubuhan Suara Rakyat Marhaen (Suara) lodged a police report against the four individuals.
Its advisor Zamil Ibrahim said the association felt that the four had conspired with individuals at the DoJ to poison the people’s mind by spreading lies and making false report against the government.
Zamil also urged the government to revoke Cynthia’s Gabriel’s citizenship for her alleged involvement with the CIA as her action could be considered as treason.
Yet another police report was lodged against the four individuals.
According to Malaysian Youth Parliament (PBM) member A’zlan Abu Baka, the complaint was based on a recent article by Raja Petra Kamarudin on his website titled ‘Mahathir’s feeble attempt at reviving the dead 1MDB issue’.
The article, among others, alleged that Mahathir had appointed the four named individuals to be in charge of the publicity campaign.
They are said to be behind the drafting of the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture which was then handed over to Sandra Brown, the Acting US Attorney of the Central District of California.
The article reported that the copies of this document were given to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Sarawak Report editor Rewcastle-Brown a week ago.
Mahathir dared Rosmah to sue him, while urging her to return money which he alleged was taken from Malaysians.
Posted on his Facebook page, he said. “Rosmah says she will sue anyone who slanders her. I am not afraid because this isn’t a slander. I’m brave because of the truth.”
“If this is slander, I challenge Rosmah to sue DoJ as well,” he added.
PPBM Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman lodged a police report against Raja Petra who in a blog post on Jun 18 had alleged that Syed Saddiq had met with PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin 20 months before the DoJ filed its latest civil forfeiture suit.
“This is part of Raja Petra’s tactics to divert the people’s attention away from something that is much bigger,” Syed Saddiq said.