The Ethically-Blighted Prime Minister of Malaysia–Najib Razak


June 19, 2017

The Ethically-Blighted Prime Minister of Malaysia–Najib Razak

by Dr.M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Image result for Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor

As for MO1, his spouse and stepson, they are beyond shame. With the millions if not billions they have already expropriated, they can handle the setback. Malaysians however, would be saddled for generations with 1MDB’s humongous debt. Quite a legacy for the son of the late Tun Razak! As for the Tun, what a legacy to have bequeathed Malaysia with his ethically-blighted son.–M.Bakri Musa

The dismissive attitude of Malaysian officials to the latest US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil forfeiture lawsuit targeting expensive assets allegedly acquired with funds illicitly siphoned from 1MDB is misplaced. Their stance is an embarrassing display of gross ignorance.

Yes, civil lawsuits in America are as common as mushrooms after a rainfall. This DOJ action however, is the largest (in dollar value) such forfeitures to date. This second set of lawsuits targeted assets allegedly given to Hollywood celebrities, as well as to the spouse of “Malaysian Official 1” (MO1). The two categories are separate though the latter believe that she is in the same class as the former.

Najib apologists and enablers never fail to point out with unconcealed smugness that the defendants to the lawsuits are not individuals, specifically Najib or his associates and relatives, rather those assets.

That is right, but such sophistry reveals a fundamental ignorance of the American judicial system. Those targeted assets do not exist in vacuo; someone or somebody owns them. They in effect are the defendants.

By targeting those assets and not their owners, DOJ is spared the task of identifying their rightful owners. That can be an arduous and expensive task, what with multiple shell companies involved in dizzying number of foreign jurisdictions. Instead, all DOJ has to do is wait for the owners to come out of the woodwork to identify themselves and lay claim to those assets by challenging the lawsuit. They have to, otherwise they would lose those assets, or at least their share.

One of those owners is Jho Low. He claimed to have bought those assets with his family’s wealth. That at least was believable as he came from a wealthy clan in Penang. Sure enough, his family’s assorted trusts too have contested the lawsuit from faraway New Zealand!

Image result for Reza Aziz and J Lo

Then there is one Reza Aziz, identified as the “stepson of MO1.” Where did this son of a nondescript Malaysian army officer get his wealth? From his mother, the daughter of my parent’s contemporary as a village school teacher in Kuala Pilah? Visit her dilapidated ancestral home back in my kampong, and her current flamboyant lifestyle today would make you puke. As for Reza’s stepfather Najib Razak, that man had spent his entire adult life in government, with its measly pay.

Reza Aziz concocted the idea that the money (some hundred million!) was a “gift” from a benevolent Saudi Sheik. Even the wealthiest corpulent Sheik would not be so extravagant with his favorite toy-boy, yet this Reza Aziz character wants those seasoned DOJ prosecutors to believe his story! Even his American accountants did not believe him.

One other owner has also come forward. Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio has not only surrendered the gifts he had received “from the parties named in the civil complaint” but went further and cooperated with DOJ investigators. That cannot be good news for either Jho Low or Reza Aziz.

Any bets whether any of the other “owners,” specifically the alleged recipient of that pink diamond, MO1’s spouse, would return their gifts? It is worth pondering whose actions better reflect the forgiving spirit of Ramadan, hers or DiCaprio’s?

Najib supporters trivialize the DOJ’s lawsuit, citing its lack of “action” after its first filing last year as proof of its political intent. To them, these series of forfeiture lawsuits are yet another albeit more sophisticated American attempt at regime change.  Such commentaries reveal a pathetic lack of the basic understanding of the US justice system.

This asset forfeiture is a civil lawsuit. Unlike criminal ones where the axiom “justice delayed, justice denied” is adhered to, civil suits can and do drag on for years. They go to trial only when all parties are ready, and all extraneous issues as with ownership claims settled. The fact that these forfeiture lawsuits drag on should not be misinterpreted in any way.

There is also the possibility that criminal charges would be filed against specific individuals during the discovery or the trial.

There is only one certainty. Once a lawsuit is filed, those assets are effectively tied up. They cannot be sold, mortgaged, or altered in any way without the court’s consent. DOJ has in effect total control of those assets, meaning, their de facto owner.

These forfeiture lawsuits will not be settled out of court. Those prosecutors have a point to prove, and with unlimited resources to pursue it. That reality has prompted owners like DiCaprio to cooperate with DOJ.

This will not be like a Malaysian trial where prosecutors could be illicitly paid off or where defense lawyers openly brag about having judges in their (lawyer’s) back pockets. The defendants have hired some of the best legal minds including those who had once worked in DOJ and had successfully prosecuted many high profile kleptocrats. It will be far from a walk in the park for the DOJ lawyers.

DOJ does have something in its favor. In a civil suit, unlike a criminal trial, the burden of proof is lower, only the “preponderance of evidence” and not “beyond reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof also shifts from the plaintiff to the defendant. Meaning, the owners have to prove that the funds they used to purchase those assets were untainted. It would be very difficult to convince an American jury that a Middle Eastern sheik would willingly part away with hundreds of millions of dollars to a Malay boy no matter how pretty he looks, for nothing in return.

Regardless of the outcome, this trial would expose to the world all the sordid ugly details of the 1MDB shenanigans. Once those are out, not many would be proud to call themselves Malaysians. They would be downright ashamed for having elected a leader with such unbounded avarice, and then letting him get away with it for so long.

Image result for Najib Razak and Tun Razak

As for MO1, his spouse and stepson, they are beyond shame. With the millions if not billions they have already expropriated, they can handle the setback. Malaysians however, would be saddled for generations with 1MDB’s humongous debt. Quite a legacy for the son of the late Tun Razak! As for the Tun, what a legacy to have bequeathed Malaysia with his ethically-blighted son.

Malaysia’s Man of Honour and Integrity: The Forgotten 3rd Premier Tun Hussein Onn


June 18, 2017

Malaysia’s Man of Honour and Integrity: The Forgotten 3rd Premier Tun Hussein Onn

by FMT Reporters

Image result for Tun Hussein Onn

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang wants the federal cabinet to make the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) latest court filings related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) a priority agenda in its next meeting.

The Gelang Patah MP said the 36 ministers need to live up to the integrity of the late former Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn who led the country from 1976 to 1981 and whose son Hishammuddin Hussein is today a part of the cabinet lineup.

Calling the 251-page document in the legal suit “a shocker of shockers”, he said the ministers need to decide how to cleanse and purge Malaysia in light of the allegations made.

He claimed that it revealed not only a “complex web of deceit and treachery in stealing billions of ringgit of 1MDB funds for personal and private use and aggrandisement, but (also) the depths of depravity some Malaysians had been prepared to descend to steal and lavish on themselves billions of ringgit of public funds from the 1MDB scam.”

“I call for a nation-wide people’s campaign for the collective resignation of the cabinet if the 36 ministers cannot do anything at its meeting,” he said, adding that Malaysia needed to be cleared of the “ignominy and infamy” of being regarded as a global kleptocracy.

“Ministers who have not read the updated DoJ’s 251-page kleptocratic action against 1MDB by Wednesday’s cabinet meeting should identify themselves, for clearly they are not fit to be in the cabinet,” he said in a statement today.

The DAP parliamentary leader also asked if there are any “modern-day Hussein Onns” in the current cabinet, referring to the third prime minister who he said had an impeccable personal integrity and abhorrence of corruption.

He added that Hishammuddin, who is the defence minister, was wrong in asserting on Friday that the DoJ filing would divert attention from the government’s larger agenda.

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Integrity is Greek to these UMNO Leaders–PM Najib Razak, Minister of Defence Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn and Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Zahid Hamidi

“Hishammuddin could not be more wrong, for there can be no bigger agenda in Malaysia than to ensure that democracy in Malaysia does not mutate into a kleptocracy, and the national imperative to uphold integrity in public life,” he said.

Lim claimed that Hussein would have agreed with him.“I have no doubt that if Malaysia had been accused of being a ‘global kleptocracy’ when Hussein was Prime Minister, he would have made it his top agenda to resolve the matter,” he said.

Hussein would also have had no hesitation in tendering his resignation as Prime Minister if he was unable to clear the nation of such “infamy and ignominy”, Lim added.

“Does Hishammuddin agree with me, or am I wrong in attributing such qualities of uncompromising commitment to public integrity to his father, the third Prime Minister of Malaysia?”

He said Malaysians will know soon whether there are any patriotic ministers who are prepared to make a principled stand to quit if the cabinet is unable or unprepared to respond honourably in the matter.

He said no loyal and patriotic Malaysian can read the legal document without “intense shame, consternation and horror.” He claimed that it represented the nation’s greatest shame in its 60-year history since independence.

In its court filing in California on June 5, the DoJ is seeking to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets, including art works, jewellery, a luxury yacht and film rights purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.

The assets named in the applications included the film rights to the two comedies “Dumb and Dumber To” starring Jim Carrey and “Daddy’s Home” featuring Will Ferrell.

The action follows last July’s civil forfeiture suit by the DoJ which sought to recover all the assets including but not limited to the Park Lane Hotel in New York, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, condominiums in New York, a private jet and expensive works of art, as well as finances related to Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

 

Coping with one’s fears and concerns


June 18, 2017

Coping with one’s fears and concerns

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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Having tried in recent columns to comprehend why I’ve had so much trouble keeping on writing in my increasingly old age, and thus far postulated that my problem might be either depression or else pressure amounting to panic at approaching my ultimate and literally last deadline, death, I feel a bit dumb to have missed an even more dire and pressing possibility, fear, or even first signs of, dementia.

As I was sadly reminded the other night at dinner with a friend and her beloved 85-year-old husband whose dementia has now progressed so far as to regress him into what’s commonly and all-too-accurately called “second childhood”, this is a terrible situation for families and friends as well as for sufferers.

But thankfully, despite the fact that every memory lapse, “senior moment” or an episode of writer’s block I experience makes me momentarily fear the worst, I’m still capable of convincing myself that I don’t yet have any of the senile varieties of dreaded dementia.

And also still capable of reminding myself of how fortunate I am – and as you apparently are too, considering that you’re sufficiently compus mentis as to subscribe to and read Malaysiakini – to have survived or avoided a good many of the countless juvenile and other dementias that threaten to render every one of us metaphorically if not literally brain-dead at every age and stage of our lives.

Starting from infancy for myself and fellow males with he-mentia, the clearly man-made and culturally if not sexually transmitted delusion that “nature” and even an allegedly omnipotent and of course male “divinity” have privileged our portion of what we presumptuously call “mankind” with some kind superiority over the rest of personkind, especially womankind.

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Stay Positive always

 

The root-cause of he-mentia, of course, is the fact that, as a fridge magnet that’s popular in Australia proclaims, “every male is born with both a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to operate one of these organs at a time.”

In other words, as smart as at least some of us hetero male members of the species we flatter with the name “Homo sapiens” can be, we’re equally capable of acting like total dickheads.

In fact, far too many of us males are total dickheads all the way through and all of the time, seeing he-mentia not as a pathological condition to be suffered or better still, for the benefit of all concerned, overcome, but as a competitive edge to be celebrated.

Thus the poisonous pre-eminence, at least so far in human history, of the patriarchies, phallocracies or whatever else you choose to call dick-headed dictatorships founded on the he-mented fallacy (phallusy?) that male might is right.

Big dick-headed dictatorships today ranging from ruling regimes in countries like the Communist Party’s China and Putin’s Russia, to their countless small dick-headed counterparts all the way from al-Assad’s Syria through UMNO-BN’s Malaysia to the Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe.

Then, of course, there are the dick-headed ‘religious’ dictatorships running so-called “theocracies like Iran” as well as most of the world’s so-called “faiths”. And, perhaps most pernicious of all, dick-headed domestic or family dictatorships sustained by verbal, psychological, economic and sundry other forms of abuse or outright violence against women and children.

Thank goodness that in my own case, the state of he-mentia into which I was born was curbed if not cured, first by the example of my father, who was far from he-mented in the way he treats my mother and other females, and later in my teens and twenties by the advent of militant feminism.

Traces of he-mentia remained, however, until I finally received a massive dose of the kind of kill-or-cure shock-treatment meted out by the Gender Studies department at Sydney University, an institution that now, thanks to its growing majority of female students and staff, is gradually turning from patriarchal to matriarchal.

Or, as I might have put it before I got my he-mentia under control or at least learned to politically-correctly keep such sexist and/or genderist remarks to myself, is morphing from an ivory to an ovary tower.

Which to my mind is a significant improvement, because while females are undeniably prone to prementia and other symptoms of what can justly be termed shementia, this syndrome, as evidenced by spectacular lower rates among its sufferers of everything from crimes of all kinds to suicide, is far less destructive than he-mentia.Not that I’m denying that there are serious mentias that seem to afflict people of both or rather all sexes and genders equally.

As appears to be the case with cementia, for example, a condition in which the contents, attitudes, and aptitudes of sufferers’ minds set like concrete, never, ever to be changed; and the closely-related sedimentia in which “beliefs”, opinions and prejudices all settle to the bottom of minds like so much sludge until something occurs to stir them back up.

Certainly I can feel myself sliding dangerously close to cementia, sedimentia or both from time to time, but fortunately know I can almost always achieve relief, or, if you like, rementia, by resorting to a regimen of such tried-and-true remedies as reading, writing and stimulating conversation.

But when even these fail to cure what’s ailing my mind, as they sometimes have recently, I know I can always resume the university course from which I suspended myself two semesters ago when I overdosed on it to the point of what felt like a case of acute if not terminal academentia, and restore my flagging faculties with some shock treatment in the form of lectures, tutorials, and assignments.

Speaking of “terminal” as I did a couple of lines ago, I see that I’m dangerously close to my word limit. So in closing, I’ll confine myself to discussing just one final example of the many dementias and d’ohmentias with which life confronts every one of us sooner or later if not constantly: doughmentia.

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He needs to be treated for doughmentia

Love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, and I can’t tell either way from personal experience because most of the money I’ve had and loved I’ve more or less carelessly lost.

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Malaysia’s First Lady Rosmah Mansor with the concurrence of Prime Minister Najib Razak wants to silence her civil society critics instead of dealing with her narcissism and character flaws

But to judge from my long observations of Malaysia’s UMNO–BN regime and the antics of its money-mad members, supporters and alleged misleader, Najib Abdul Razak, in attempted denial that they’ve sold themselves, the reputations of the race, religion and royalty they so fraudulently claim to support, and the good name and self-respect of the nation at large in return for greater or lesser shares of the countless billions allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) so-called “wealth fund”, doughmentia seems about as dire as evil gets.

And I heartily hope it will prove as politically, financially and personally deadly to them all as dementia that I and far too many of my fast-ageing fellows around the world fear might be our fate.

 

FGV Falls from Grace but Isa Samad Stays: Governance Malaysian Style


June 16, 2017

FGV Falls from Grace but Isa Samad Stays: Governance Malaysian Style

by P.Gunasegarm@www.malaysiakini.com

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS | The latest fallout at Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) controlled Felda Global Ventures Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV), is just a continuation of the wrong and highly questionable actions of the company since listing in 2012.

Image result for FGV Chairman Isa Abdul Samad

The solution is to simply go back to basics which means that FGV should stick to the business it knows well – oil palm plantations and related processing. It should pay fair prices for related acquisitions, not astronomical sums. And be run by competent professional managers who understand the business and are straight.

But too much damage has already been done by these actions and it will be some time before it recovers completely.

In the latest controversy, FGV board chairperson Isa Abdul Samad announced on June 6 that FGV CEO Zakaria Arshad was to take an immediate leave of absence. He added that it was a board decision.

Apart from Zakaria, FGV chief finance officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha, FGV Trading chief executive officer Ahmad Salman Omar and Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd senior general manager Kamarzaman Abd Karim were also suspended.

Zakaria hit back saying he had tried to stop hundreds of millions in investments by the company’s board which he described as “ridiculous”.

Amongst the investments, he said, were plans for a 100 million pound sterling (approximately RM551 million) expansion of Felda Cambridge Nanosystems Ltd, a nanocarbon company, which had already lost RM117 million in the last three to four years.

“Now they (the FGV board) want to expand, they need another 100 million pounds. To me this is ridiculous, we’re a plantation company,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.

To understand what is going on, it is necessary to go back into FGV’s short history. While it was listed in mid-2012 with high hopes that it will provide great returns for Felda settlers who hold a direct stake, Felda which holds about a 34% stake and various government institutions including the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), the share performance has been atrocious.

When it was first listed on June 28, 2012 confidence was so high that it opened higher than expected over its initial public offer (IPO) price of RM4.55. Reuters reported: “Malaysian palm oil firm Felda Global surged 20 percent in its trading debut on Thursday (June 28, 2012) as investors cheered on the world’s second largest IPO after Facebook’s botched float and the company pledged stronger profits in the coming months.

“The firm raised US$3.1 billion (about RM10 billion then) in Asia’s biggest initial public offering of this year, running against the global gloom in IPO markets and giving the government a political dividend ahead of what is likely to be a closely fought election (the 2013 general election).”

FGV closed that day at RM5.30, some 16% higher than its IPO price but it has been downhill all the way after that, reflecting poor results and an extreme lack of market confidence in the share following a string of poor purchases over the years, squandering some RM4.46 billion net that came directly to FGV from the issue of new shares from the IPO.

Between June 28, 2012 and its last trading day on Friday, FGV’s share price went from RM5.30 to RM1.66, wiping out nearly seven-tenths of its market value. Even comparing with the IPO price of RM4.55, the drop was over 63% – more than six-tenths of value was lost. The EPF itself lost RM203 million when it sold off some of its investments in FGV.

If one thought that this decline in value is because of a general decline in plantation stocks generally, they are wrong. Bursa Malaysia’s plantation index, which aggregates the performance of major plantation companies, declined just 6% over the same period, or about a twentieth of its value against FGV’s seven-tenths, a rate of decline which was 20 times higher.

Acquisition spree

FGV’s acquisition spree under previous CEO Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah included the takeover of Pontian United Plantations Bhd for RM1.2 billion, Asia Plantation Ltd for RM628 million and RM2.2 billion for Felda Holdings Bhd, and 836 ha of oil palm land from Golden Land Bhd for RM655 million cash.

It culminated in a deal with the Rajawali Group announced in June 2015 for FGV to acquire a 37% stake in PT Eagle High Plantations (EHP) and 93% to 95% stakes in Rajawali Group’s sugar project, in all worth about US$680 million (about RM2.9 billion) in cash and FGV stock.

Emir was strangely involved in a corruption case earlier this month when an employee of The Star newspaper was charged in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with receiving RM20,000 in bribes. M Youganesparan was accused of receiving the money from Emir at The Intermark Hotel, Jalan Tun Razak about 9.15pm on May 30 this year.

By the time the Eagle High acquisition was announced, FGV needed to borrow money to do the deal as it had exhausted the RM4.46 billion from IPO proceeds. The deal was heavily criticised as being way too expensive, even by the EPF, at an estimated 70% premium to market. Also Peter Sondakh, the founder and owner of the Rajawali group was said to be part of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s inner circle and served as his adviser on Indonesian affairs.

Fortunately CEO Zakaria Arshad, appointed on April 1, 2016 and the same one who is now on a leave of absence, nixed the deal, which was officially aborted in July 2016 after FGV started negotiations to restructure the deal in December 2015. Eventually in December 2016, the Eagle High deal was done with Felda which paid US$505 million (about RM2.2 billion) a quarter less, for the same deal.

Zakaria also cut other merger and acquisition deals saying that FGV should concentrate on the plantation business instead, in all saving FGV at least RM4 billion in spending.

Isa was chairman of both FGV and Felda at this time but was replaced as Felda chairman in January this year by another politician Shahrir Samad, although it was not clear why he was replaced. Isa, during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time as Umno president, was found guilty of money politics in 2005 and suspended from the party for six years. He had to give up his post as UMNO Vice-President and Federal Territories Minister.

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Idris Jala–The Financial Whiz appointed to fix GFV

Now former cabinet minister Idris Jala is supposed to look into this whole mess and make his recommendations. But at the end of the day, the solution is very straight forward. First, appoint people with impeccable credentials to the board and ensure that there is board diversity, independence and honesty.

Don’t just cram them chock full with politicians, often of dubious quality even then, and civil servants who know little or nothing about the corporate world and how it operates. Directors collectively should have expertise which covers all aspects of running a business.

Then pick a CEO with proven credentials and give him a free hand to run the company within the broad guidelines and mandate set out by the shareholders and the board. Make him accountable for set targets.

The needless failure of FGV is that of basic corporate governance. At the heart of this is the hijacking of what could have been a good, solid plantation company by the politicians for their own purpose, in the process screwing Felda settlers, investors and other stakeholders.


P GUNASEGARAM says too much is discussed but too little is done about corporate governance in Malaysia, even for listed companies. What happens with unlisted government companies, he wonders. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

 

US Targets USD540 million in assets bought with 1MDB Funds


June 16, 2017

1Malaysia Development Bhd

US Targets USD540 million in assets bought with 1MDB Funds

Latest move to recover money allegedly stolen from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund

by David J Lynch in Washington

https://www.ft.com/content/c7669654-51e8-11e7-bfb8-997009366969?mhq5j=e2

The US Department of Justice on Thursday moved to seize an additional $540m in assets purchased with funds stolen from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, including a luxury yacht, a Picasso painting, jewellery and rights to the movie Dumb and Dumber.

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The Wolves of 1MDB

The suit, which was filed in federal court in Los Angeles, is the latest move in an ambitious US effort to recover money allegedly siphoned from the fund in a sophisticated operation that ran from 2009 until 2015.

The US now estimates that a total of $4.5bn was pilfered by Malaysian public officials and their associates including Jho Low, a well-connected Malaysian businessman who held no formal role in the project.

Including the new lawsuit and earlier civil forfeiture actions, the US government has moved to recover $1.7bn of that amount, according to Kendall Day, acting deputy assistant attorney-general. This represents the largest such US seizure action under a DoJ initiative aimed at recovering money stolen by corrupt foreign officials.

Mr Day said the latest action was aimed at recovering “proceeds of a massive fraud”.

The scheme involved $1.2bn that 1MDB borrowed from Deutsche Bank in 2014, ostensibly to repay options connected with an earlier bond offering, prosecutors say. Of that borrowing, $850m was stolen to fund the lavish lifestyles of individuals including Mr Low and an official identified only as “Malaysian official 1”, a designation that in previous court filings has matched the biography of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing, as has Mr Low.

In a statement on Thursday the Malaysian government said it would co-operate with any lawful investigation of the country’s companies or citizens but expressed concern “that again the DoJ has failed to seek such co-operation from the Malaysian government or 1MDB”.

The proceeds from two Deutsche Bank loans also were used to operate a Ponzi scheme designed to show that an earlier 1MDB investment in a joint venture with PetroSaudi International, a private Saudi Arabia-based oil services company, had been profitable.

In reality, none of the fund’s investments, which were to have promoted economic growth and foreign direct investment in Malaysia, paid off, according to Mr Day.

The fund obtained the loans “through material misrepresentations and omissions to Deutsche Bank”, according to the lawsuit. At one point, when bank officials requested documentation verifying key financial details, a 1MDB official replied that the fund had suffered a “server breakdown and all files were lost”, according to court filings.

The fund eventually defaulted on the larger of the two loans.Several 1MDB officials, along with their relatives and associates, used a global network of shell companies and bank accounts in the US, Singapore, Switzerland, and Luxembourg to pull off the heist, prosecutors say.

Mr Day said the investigation is continuing. The Financial Times reported last year that prosecutors are investigating Goldman Sachs’ handling of the proceeds of $6.5bn in bond offerings it conducted for the fund to determine whether it complied with reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. The bank has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Among the assets targeted in the civil lawsuit filed on Wednesday was a $261m yacht called “The Equanimity”, which prosecutors said was constructed in 2014 and could hold 25 guests and a crew of 33. The 300 feet long vessel boasted a helicopter pad, a gymnasium, cinema, and plunge pool, prosecutors said.

The US also moved to seize 2.5m shares of Palantir stock, a Madison Avenue condominium, a framed colour poster for the 1927 silent movie Metropolis, and rights to the movie Daddy’s Home, which starred Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

The lawsuit also targeted several diamonds, including a nearly 12-carat heart-shaped item, and the painting “Nature Morte au Crane de Taureau” by Picasso.

The Picasso was given in January 2014 as a birthday gift to the actor Leo DiCaprio, who starred in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. The film was produced by Red Granite, which was backed financially by individuals allegedly involved in the scandal, including Riza Aziz, a relative of Mr Najib, and Mr Low.

Through a spokesman, Mr DiCaprio said on Thursday that before the government filed its latest action, he had “initiated return of these items, which were received and accepted by him for the purpose of being included in an annual charity auction to benefit his eponymous foundation”.

The actor also has returned an Oscar originally won by Marlon Brando, which he received as another gift from Red Granite.

The company, which also produced Dumb and Dumber and Daddy’s Home, said it “is actively engaged in discussions with the Justice Department aimed at resolving” the civil litigation.

Last year, the US filed civil forfeiture actions seeking more than $1bn in assets purchased with money allegedly stolen from the 1MDB fund.

The new suit says assets belonging to several individuals or businesses such as Jho Low; Low Taek Szen; JW Hospitality (VHG Intl) Ltd; FFP (Cayman) Ltd; Mubadala Development Company PJSC; Viceroy Hotel Group; and Jynwel Capital Ltd, may be affected by the action.

Additional reporting by Kara Scannell in New York

Follow David J Lynch on Twitter: @davidjlynch

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CIVIL LAWSUITS:PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS SECRETARY STATEMENT

16 June 2017

1. We note the United States Department of Justice’s (DoJ) latest civil lawsuits brought against various assets. The Malaysian government will fully cooperate with any lawful investigation of Malaysian companies or citizens in accordance with international protocols. So we are concerned that again the DoJ has failed to seek such cooperation from the Malaysian government or 1MDB, the Malaysian company concerned.

2. We are also concerned by the unnecessary and gratuitous naming of certain matters and individuals that are only relevant to domestic political manipulation and interference. This suggests a motivation that goes beyond the objective of seizing assets.

3. There have been numerous and extensive investigations by Malaysian authorities into 1MDB, including by independent and bi-partisan bodies such as the Public Accounts Committee, and no crime was found. 1MDB is still the subject of an investigation by the Royal Malaysia Police. If there is evidence of wrongdoing, Malaysia will not hesitate to take action.

4.Until then, unproven allegations should not be taken as facts. And we take note of DoJ’s own press release, which states that “A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation that money or property was involved in or represents the proceeds of a crime. These allegations are not proven until a court awards judgment in favor of the U.S.”.

5. The judicial process is not served by headline seeking. Malaysia stands firm in its support of transparency and good governance. That includes ensuring that accusations have a basis in fact, rather than smears briefed by political opponents. We are confident that justice will take its course and Malaysia will continue to cooperate with all willing international agencies. As the Prime Minister has always maintained, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception.

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DATUK SERI TENGKU SARIFFUDDIN, PRESS SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER