U.S. Moves to Seize Diamonds, a Picasso and Hollywood Films in Malaysian Case


“These cases involve billions of dollars that should have been used to help the people of Malaysia, but instead was used by a small number of individuals to fuel their astonishing greed,” the acting United States attorney Sandra R. Brown said in a statement.

Mr. Najib, who is identified in the 251-page complaint only as Malaysian Official 1, has denied any wrongdoing. He has boasted of golfing with President Trump, but any hope he had that Mr. Trump’s election might curb the American investigation appears to have been dashed.

Mr. Najib’s attorney general, Mohamed Apandi Ali, issued a statement on Friday noting that investigations conducted by Mr. Najib’s government had found no evidence that money was misappropriated.

Mr. Najib’s press secretary, Tengku Sariffuddin, suggested the United States’ action was politically motivated.

Malaysia is “concerned by the unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals that are only relevant to domestic political manipulation and interference,” he said. “This suggests a motivation that goes beyond the objective of seizing assets.”

The Malaysian government created the fund in 2008 ostensibly to promote economic development. But it borrowed heavily, and much of the money was used in questionable investment schemes.

A key player in establishing the fund was Jho Low, a friend of Mr. Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz.

The latest complaint seeks to recover more than $400 million from Mr. Low, including his $250 million yacht, Equanimity. Mr. Low’s location is unknown.

Mr. Low used some of the funds to finance a lavish style and befriend celebrities, including hiring them to attend parties, the complaint says.

Document

Justice Department Complaint Seeking 1MDB Assets

Here is the United States Justice Department complaint seeking to recover $540 million in assets that it says were purchased with money stolen from 1MDB, a Malaysian government fund.



OPEN Document


It seeks the recovery of more than $8 million in diamond jewelry that Mr. Low is said to have given to Miranda Kerr, an Australian model, including an 11.72-carat, heart-shaped diamond for Valentine’s Day in 2014. Ms. Kerr could not be immediately reached for comment.

The complaint is also seeking to recover more than $25 million in assets from Mr. Aziz, a co-founder of the Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures, including the rights to the films “Dumb and Dumber To” and “Daddy’s Home.”

Red Granite has said that it is cooperating with the Justice Department and that it is seeking to resolve the case. The previous complaint sought the rights to “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which Red Granite also produced.

The complaint claims that Mr. DiCaprio received expensive artwork from Mr. Low and his associates, including a $9.2 million collage by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a $3.2 million painting by Pablo Picasso.

A spokesman for Mr. DiCaprio said in a statement that the actor received the gifts to benefit his environmental foundation and that he had initiated their return before the complaint was filed.

Mr. DiCaprio has returned an Oscar, originally won by Marlon Brando, that was given to him by Red Granite Pictures in appreciation for his work on the “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the spokesman said, according to the Reuters news agency.

In Malaysia, Mr. Najib has continued to hold on to power by curbing investigations, firing critics in the governing party and the government, prosecuting opponents, and shoring up support among his conservative Muslim base.

The complaint says that more than $200 million of the stolen money was spent on jewelry and that some of it found its way to Mr. Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor.

Ms. Mansor is not named in the complaint, but she is identified as the wife of Malaysian Official 1. She is well known in Malaysia for her interest in luxury goods, including diamonds and a collection of Hermès Birkin handbags.

According to the complaint, she received the $27.3 million necklace with a 22-carat, pink diamond pendant that was bought with money diverted from the Malaysian fund.

During a visit to Los Angeles in 2014, the complaint says, she and her husband had dinner at the Bel-Air hotel. Afterward, she was shown a selection of jewelry and chose 27 gold necklaces and bracelets. They were later paid for with $1.3 million that came from “misappropriated Deutsche Bank loan proceeds,” the complaint says.

Ms. Brown, the acting United States attorney for the Central District of California, said that the participants relied on “an extravagant web of lies and bogus transactions” to carry out the scheme.

“This money financed the lavish lifestyles of the alleged co-conspirators at the expense and detriment of the Malaysian people,” said the acting assistant attorney general Kenneth A. Blanco. “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.”

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