LOS ANGELES (CN) — Federal authorities have moved to seize a hillside property in Beverly Hills, a private jet, a yacht and several other assets they say were purchased by a former Kuwaiti military official using over $100 million in embezzled public funds.
The international money-laundering scheme stretched from 2009 through 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which announced the forfeiture filing Friday.
The individuals involved in the scheme are unnamed in the several documents filed in the Central District of California on Thursday, but the enterprise involved money taken from the Kuwait Ministry of Defense that was sent to an attaché office in London according to federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service.
The high-level defense officials and their associates opened six bank accounts and transferred more than $100 million from the National Bank of Kuwait into the unauthorized London accounts, according to the filings.
Some of those transfers were disguised as military purchases, but in truth the money was sent to California businesses and individuals who had no business or contracts with the country of Kuwait U.S. authorities say.
One such purchase was a property on Tower Park Drive, commonly referred to as the Mountain of Beverly Hills or the Vineyard at Beverly Hills, according to court filings.
Prosecutors say two individuals, described as Kuwaiti Official 1 and Kuwaiti Official 2, were the Kuwaiti defense minister between 2013 and 2017 and the deputy defense minister from 2008 to 2017, respectively.
In total, the U.S. government seeks to recover over $104 million laundered through U.S. banks. The money eventually was sent to companies in California operated by Victorino Noval, 58, formerly known as Victor Jesus Noval, who was convicted of mail fraud and tax evasion in 2003 related to a multimillion-dollar loan fraud, according to prosecutors.
That scheme was carried out against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Noval was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $25 million in restitution.
The laundered Kuwaiti military funds were used to purchase the Mountain of Beverly Hills according to prosecutors sometime in 2010, when Kuwaiti Official 1 and Noval entered into an agreement to develop the 157-acre undeveloped property. That property was once owned by the Shah of Iran’s family, then founder of Herbalife Mark Hughes, and was once listed on the real estate market for $1 billion.
Bank transactions from London to Noval’s business LA Stars, a separate company operated by Charles “Chip” Dickens, and other entities could all be traced back to the Kuwaiti defense funds, according to prosecutors.
U.S. officials say the funds were also used to purchase three other homes in Beverly Hills, a penthouse and apartment in West LA, a 2014 Lamborghini and a replica Manny Pacquiao Prize Fighter belt and boots costing $40,000.
In 2019, Khaled al-Sabah — Kuwait’s former defense minister from 2013 to 2017 — sued Noval and several other California investors he claims defrauded him after they said they would use his money to develop the Beverly Hills property, according to the complaint filed in LA Superior Court.
Appointed as Kuwait’s prime minister in 2019, al-Sabah is a senior member of the ruling Sabah family.