Monday, May 16, 2022

US offers rewards for tipsters on stolen 1MDB assets

Under the new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program, up to US$5 million is being offered for leads in several cases including that of 1MDB.

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US authorities including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will reward anyone providing leads to help recover assets stolen from 1MDB, as part of the newly launched Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program where up to US$5 million is being offered to tipsters as part of efforts to fight global corruption involving foreign governments.

The 1MDB scandal, which was the subject of an investigation launched by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in 2016 as it sought to recover billions of dollars in assets stolen from the sovereign fund, was named among three other cases, including corruption linked to Brazil and Russia.

In a statement, the Treasury said the DoJ, FBI and Internal Revenue Service were seeking information leading to the “seizure, restraint, forfeiture, or repatriation of assets linked to corruption involving the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia, known as 1MDB”.

It said stolen assets kept in a US bank and that come within the possession of any person in the US can be reported.

“Persons who provide such information may be eligible for a reward under this programme or others,” it said.

Those with information may email [email protected]

“The reward amount will be based on various factors, including whether the information was previously known to investigating agencies, the risk assumed by the informant, and the significance of the information in leading to the restraint or seizure, forfeiture, or repatriation of the assets identified.”

The programme comes as a major corruption case involving 1MDB continues in New York, where former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng is being tried for charges of conspiring to launder money and violate an anti-bribery law.

Prosecutors say Goldman raised US$6.5 billion for 1MDB from 2009 to 2014 through bond sales and earned US$600 million in fees, but that US$4.5 billion was diverted to officials, bankers and their associates through bribes and kickbacks.

Goldman in 2020 paid a nearly US$3 billion fine and arranged for its Malaysian unit to plead guilty in US court.

In July 2016, the DoJ said it was seeking to seize assets worth more than US$3.5 billion linked to stolen money from 1MDB.

It said then that a number of “corrupt officials” had treated public trust as a personal bank account, and named one of them as “Malaysian Official 1”, whom it said received US$681 million of the stolen money.

It was widely understood that “Malaysian Official 1” was then prime minister Najib Razak, although this was never officially announced.

Najib was convicted in July 2020 of seven counts of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power involving RM42 million in funds from 1MDB-linked unit SRC International.

In December last year, the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and sentence with the panel judges describing the transactions into his account as a “national embarrassment”.

Najib is currently appealing his case at the Federal Court.

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