SINGAPORE, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 21th july, 2016) : Singapore said Thursday it had seized nearly $180 million linked to scandal-tainted Malaysian state fund 1MDB, raising the pressure a day after Washington moved to grab more than $1 billion in assets over "enormous" fraud. The back-to-back announcements were the clearest signs yet of a tightening noose on 1MDB, which was founded and overseen by embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak and has caused more than a year of Malaysian tumult.
The US Justice Department filed lawsuits Wednesday to seize assets including luxury real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London, artworks by Monet and Van Gogh, and a Bombardier executive jet, saying they were purchased with money stolen from 1MDB. The US filing accuses an individual it calls "Malaysian Official 1" -- an apparent thinly veiled reference to Najib -- of taking huge sums, along with Najib's stepson, a close family associate and other figures.
"The Department of Justice will not allow the American financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the move. Singapore's government followed up by revealing it had seized Sg$240 million ($177 million) worth of bank funds and other assets over suspected fraud and money-laundering related to 1MDB since launching its own investigations last year. It marked the first time authorities in the city-state revealed details of its probes.
They said half the frozen Singapore assets were linked to Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian businessman close to Najib's family. The US filing also accused Low of illegally shifting hundreds of millions of Dollars into the United States for corrupt activities benefitting Najib's family. The assets targeted for US seizure include royalties from the 2013 financial crime caper "The Wolf of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film was produced by a company owned by Najib's stepson Riza Aziz, using more than $100 million syphoned from 1MDB, the Justice Department said. Both Najib and 1MDB have consistently dismissed allegations of wrongdoing as political attacks by his opponents. But Najib has fuelled suspicions by suppressing information, neutering Malaysian investigations, and ousting officials who questioned the affair.