On September 16, 2020, the US Department of Justice announced the filing of complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $300 million in assets allegedly connected to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. When combined with earlier forfeiture actions traceable to the 1MDB money laundering and bribery scheme, the US has sought a total forfeiture of over $2.1 billion in assets, and recovered nearly $1.1 billion in assets connected the 1MDB, that collectively represents the largest action brought under the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the largest forfeiture action ever instituted in DOJ history.
The complaints, filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, identify additional assets that Riza Aziz, a relative of a Malaysian official, acquired with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB, including 4 dozen promotional movie posters and an escrow account in the UK with more than $300 million. According to the complaints, the funds in escrow are traceable to a line of credit extended by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) to PetroSaudi Oil Services, used to purchase two drill ships allegedly acquired with funds from 1MDB.
The 1MDB fund was originally created by the Malaysian government to promote economic development in Malaysia and improve the well-being of the Malaysian people. However, according to complaints, from 2009 to 2015 officials with 1MDB along with their relatives and associates, diverted over $4.5 billion from the fund by laundering the money using shell companies and a series of complex transactions through banks located in the US and abroad, designed to conceal the true source of the funds.