LOS ANGELES (CN) – The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking the forfeiture and recovery of almost $540 million in assets tied to a money-laundering scheme that allegedly misappropriated funds set aside for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
Federal prosecutors allege that senior officials of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, or 1MDB, stole more than $4.5 billion during a period that began in 2009 and ended in 2015. The officials’ associates and family members were part of an elaborate money-laundering scheme that involved the co-conspirators funneling billions of dollars through a network of shell companies based in America and abroad, passing through financial institutions in the United States, prosecutors say.
The Malaysian government created the economic development fund to benefit the Malaysian people, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
The federal government has already filed several civil forfeiture complaints seeking close to $1.7 billion in assets. Lawsuits filed on Thursday seek assets linked to production company Red Granite’s interest in the “Dumb and Dumber” sequel “Dumb and Dumber To,” the 2015 comedy “Daddy’s Home,” a $5 million New York City condo, and Picasso and Basquiat art.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said this week’s forfeiture complaints are the latest chapter in the conspiracy.
“This money financed the lavish lifestyles of the alleged co-conspirators at the expense and detriment of the Malaysian people. We are unwavering in our commitment to ensure the United States is not a safe haven for corrupt individuals and kleptocrats to hide their ill-gotten wealth or money, and that recovered assets be returned to the victims from which they were taken,” Blanco said in a prepared statement.
The case is the largest prosecuted under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, created to recover assets from foreign corruption and return them to the people harmed by those acts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.