US prosecutors say settlement forces Jho Low, family to give up ‘ill-gotten gains’

The DoJ took a condemnatory tone towards Low who earlier sought to portray the settlement as a victory of sorts. — Reuters pic
The DoJ took a condemnatory tone towards Low who earlier sought to portray the settlement as a victory of sorts. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — The US Justice Department said it has denied fugitive financier Low Taek Jho access to hundreds of millions allegedly embezzled from 1MDB, with the settlement of the civil forfeiture suit against him.

In a joint statement by the law enforcement agencies involved in the case against him, the DoJ took a condemnatory tone towards Low who earlier sought to portray the settlement as a victory of sorts.

It also pointed out that Low was still on trial for charges related to the 1MDB scandal in two US districts.

The DoJ also noted that the settlement of “over US$700 million” represented the largest ever recovery executed under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the biggest civil forfeiture ever concluded.

“This settlement agreement forces Low and his family to relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains that were intended to be used for the benefit of the Malaysian people, and it sends a signal that the United States will not be a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption.

“A staggering amount of money embezzled from 1MDB at the expense of the people of Malaysia was laundered through the purchase of big-ticket assets in the US and other nations,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the DoJ said in the release.

The statement also recalled allegations against Low and his accomplices, which included extravagant spending sprees, the purchase of unique artwork and luxury property, gambling at casinos, and other excesses.

US Attorney Nicola T. Hanna described Low as one of the men allegedly “at the centre of the scheme” and who will now be prevented from using the misappropriated funds.

Other agencies that also commented in the statement include the criminal investigation offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Inland Revenue Service (IRS).

The statement also noted that Low still faced charges related to the scandal outside of California.

“Low separately faces charges in the Eastern District of New York for conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB and for conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to various Malaysian and Emirati officials, and in the District of Columbia for conspiring to make and conceal foreign and conduit campaign contributions during the United States presidential election in 2012.”

The DoJ stressed that today’s settlement did not exonerate Low or absolve him of future liability.

The US agency then thanked Malaysia’s Attorney General’s Chambers, the Royal Malaysia Police, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, among others, for assisting in the case.

After the settlement was reported today, Low said he was “very pleased” with the deal that “forever resolved” the claims against him in the US district in California.

In 2016, then US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch spectacularly announced in a live broadcast that the DoJ was launching the kleptocracy investigation into the 1MDB scandal that reached all the way to a “Malaysian Official 1”.

A Barisan Nasional minister at the time, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, confirmed “MO1” to be Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the former prime minister currently on trial here for abuse and money laundering related to the scandal.

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