According to the Telegraph newspaper, the United States government plans to move Wednesday to seize more than $1 billion in assets purchased with money that it believes was stolen from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund by people close to the country’s embattled prime minister.
Hidden in the United States in real estate, art and other luxury goods, the money was embezzled from the fund and moved around the world using secretive shell companies that masked its trail, a person familiar with the Justice Department plan said.
The $1 billion that prosecutors will allege was laundered in the United States is but a portion of the billions that international investigators suspect was siphoned off by high-level officials at the fund and their associates. The fund — called 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB — is overseen by the prime minister, Najib Razak, and has become a focus of rising popular discontent with Mr. Najib’s government amid several investigations at home and abroad.
The newspaper added that the forfeiture complaint, to be issued by a unit known as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, will be the largest such case brought by the Justice Department. The United States is among several governments, including Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland, that have investigated the fund.