KUALA LUMPUR – The United States will return to Malaysia the assets confiscated from the scandal-plagued state fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s Finance Minister said on Tuesday.
Lim Guan Eng said in a tweet that the US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir had told him the assets seized from 1MDB would be “monetized & returned to Malaysia as early as possible.”
1MDB, which was created in 2009 by former Prime Minsiter Najib Razak, who presided over it until 2016, sought to attract foreign investment and create a financial district in Kuala Lumpur, but ended up accumulating losses of 42 billion ringgit (around $11 billion).
Najib, who has been banned from leaving the country by the authorities, is under investigation for alleging diverting $681 million from 1MDB into his personal accounts.
The former prime minister has denied the allegations, claiming the money was a donation from a Saudi prince, an explanation that was initially accepted by 1MDB, the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission and the then-attorney general, but the case was reopened after Malaysia’s change in government following elections last month.
Six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore, have opened a judicial investigation into the alleged 1MDB funds misappropriation.
The US Department of Justice has pegged the total amount diverted from 1MDB at $4.5 billion, of which some $1 billion is suspected to have been laundered in the US through the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewelry and artwork, among other things.