(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday reached a settlement deal with Malaysian financier Jho Low to recover almost $1 billion in funds the fugitive and his family had misappropriated from Malaysian investment fund 1MDB.
FILE PHOTO: A construction worker talks on the phone in front of a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this February 3, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/
High-level officials of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and associates including Low had siphoned over $4.5 billion belonging to the state-owned wealth fund from 2009 to 2015, the Justice Department said.
Officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Deutsche Bank have all been caught up in probes into multi-year conspiracy.
Low faced charges in both United States and Malaysia over his central role in the scandal at 1MDB, which was founded by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Low agreed to give up high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London and other business investments totaling $700 million, the Justice Department said in a statement and court document filed on Wednesday. The settlement also included assets in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
That’s on top of a $120-million yacht and $140 million in other assets previously forfeited. If approved, the settlement will mark the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the Justice Department, it said.
“The message in this case is simple: the United States is not a safe haven for pilfered funds,” said U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna of the Central District of California.
The deal does not include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing and is not tied to the criminal action against Low.
“I am very pleased to confirm that a landmark comprehensive, global settlement has been reached with the United States government,” Low said in an emailed statement.
Goldman said earlier this month it was cooperating with the Justice Department and other government and regulatory investigations.
“The firm is also engaged in discussions with certain government and regulatory authorities with respect to potential resolution of their investigations,” the bank said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Oct. 15.
Last year, Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman over its role as underwriter and arranger of three bond sales that raised $6.5 billion for 1MDB. Prosecutors in August filed criminal charges against 17 current and former directors at Goldman units.
The proposed settlement was filed in a California court on Wednesday and needs to be approved by a judge.
Reporting by Bharath Manjesh and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; and Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, Tom Brown, Shri Navaratnam and Lincoln Feast.