Validity of US 1MDB forfeitures still up in the air as Obaid continues challenge

A man walks past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard in Kuala Lumpur, March 30, 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A man walks past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard in Kuala Lumpur, March 30, 2015. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — Former PetroSaudi International chief executive Tarek Obaid has resumed his lawsuit in the US to challenge the country’s authority to forfeit assets he allegedly procured using funds misappropriated from 1MDB.

According to Bloomberg, Obaid will return to the US Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, today to pursue his challenge against the civil forfeiture that he claims is invalid as he was not a citizen or resident in the US.

A win for Obaid could significantly alter the situations for others who have also had their assets seized in the US over 1MDB, including but not limited to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho and Riza Aziz, the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

In total, the US has seized or is moving to seize over US$1.7 billion in property, luxury goods, art, jewellery from various personalities alleged to have received stolen 1MDB funds.

Today’s hearing is a continuation of Obaid’s lawsuit filed in 2017 but which was deferred by the courts to allow the DoJ’s investigations to be concluded.

In October last year, the same court rejected Obaid’s attempt to be removed from the DoJ’s anti-kleptocracy suits as it did not believe it was the correct venue for the challenge.

The DoJ reportedly launched the civil action to forfeit Obaid’s 2,500,000 shares in software engineering firm Palantir Technologies based on claims he purchased these using money allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB.

PSI and 1MDB entered an abortive US$2.5 billion joint venture in 2012 for which the Malaysian firm still “paid” the former US$700 million, except that the sum went to Good Star Ltd, a firm that investigators say whose main beneficiary is Low.

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