Innocent till proven guilty, Salleh Keruak says of US 1MDB suit

Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak claimed that 1MDB has been the subject of ‘politically motivated’ attacks to unseat a ‘democratically elected’ head of government. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak claimed that 1MDB has been the subject of ‘politically motivated’ attacks to unseat a ‘democratically elected’ head of government. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 ― Judgment should not be rushed before allegations are proven in court, minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak said today after the US government filed a lawsuit to recover more than US$1 billion in assets bought with money allegedly embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The communications and multimedia minister claimed that the state investment firm has been the subject of “politically motivated” attacks to unseat a “democratically elected” head of government, noting that previous allegations like former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that RM42 billion had gone missing later proved to be false.

“This means that any claims relating to 1MDB must be treated with caution, follow due legal process and adhere to the principle of innocent until proved guilty.

“No one should rush to judgment before allegations are proved in court,” Salleh said in a statement.

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 in a press statement as an “international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated” from 1MDB, the largest case ever brought by the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

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 money was allegedly laundered through “complex transactions and fraudulent shell companies” with bank accounts located in Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the US.

According to complaints that US prosecutors highlighted, the funds allegedly embezzled and laundered into the US were purportedly used to buy luxury properties in the US and UK, including a mansion in Beverly Hills, a penthouse in New York and a townhouse in London, paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, a US$35 million jet, as well as gambling debts in Las Vegas.

The money was also allegedly used to invest in EMI Music and to fund the production of 2013 Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

Salleh stressed today that the RM2.6 billion donation to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was a separate matter.

“After comprehensive investigations by many authorities, it has been confirmed that the funds were a donation from the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia ― as stated by the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia on 14th April,” he said.

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