Can 1MDB-IPIC settlement derail DOJ's case?

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The US Department of Justice's (DOJ) lawsuits related to 1MDB are reportedly hanging in the balance amid talks that the state investment firm is reaching a settlement with Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

The Straits Times, which reported on the proposed settlement, cited experts as saying the agreement could diminish evidence in the DOJ's suits and result in what is legally known as a "no predicate offence".

A predicate offence, it said, is an offence that is part of a bigger crime, and is often used in the US for actions involving money laundering.

The agreement is for Malaysia to settle IPIC's US$1.2 billion bailout of 1MDB, including interest, and to continue negotiations on settling another US$3.5 billion owed to IPIC.

The amount owed includes payments 1MDB was supposed to make to IPIC but were instead diverted to a bogus company bearing a similar name to IPIC's subsidiary. 

1MDB and IPIC will reportedly have until 2020 to settle this.

The DOJ's civil forfeiture suit claims that more than US$3.5 billion of 1MDB funds were misappropriated.

The funds were allegedly channelled to several individuals, including Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's stepson Riza Aziz, and a "Malaysian Official 1".

To date, the DOJ's had filed 16 lawsuits to seize assets worth more than US$1 billion, which it claims were purchased with the misappropriated monies.

Based on the DOJ filings, six of the 16 lawsuits are on assets purchased with funds allegedly misappropriated from two bonds totalling US$3.5 billion. IPIC had acted as guarantor for the bonds.

 

However, three of these assets - a Hillcrest property in Beverly Hills; the Park Laurel Condominium in New York and assets linked to the film 'Wolf of Wall Street' - are also tied to 1MDB funds allegedly misappropriated from its joint venture with PetroSaudi International (PSI).

These two assets were first allegedly purchased by Penang-born tycoon Jho Low using part of the US$1.03 billion siphoned from the PSI joint venture to his company, Good Star Ltd, in 2010.

It was then bought by Riza in 2012, also using funds purportedly misappropriated from 1MDB.

As for the 'Wolf of Wall Street', the movie and its production house Red Granite Films had allegedly received US$10.17 million from funds Good Star had allegedly misappropriated in 2011, and a further injection of US$64 million from Riza in 2012.

It is not clear how these three cases would be affected by the 1MDB-IPIC settlement.

Malaysiakini has contacted the DOJ for clarification on the impact the settlement would have on its lawsuits.

The remaining assets, allegedly acquired with misappropriated 1MDB funds, are the Qentas townhouse in London; the Walker Tower Penthouse in New York; the Laurel Beverly Hills mansion; and a second Hillcrest property.

The DOJ is also seeking to seize works of art and assets linked to the New York Park Lane hotel which were allegedly acquired through funds misappropriated from a separate joint venture between 1MDB and IPIC's Aabar Investment PJS in 2013.

Other assets the DOJ wants to seize include a Bombardier jet and four luxury properties that Jho Low allegedly purchased from the funds misappropriated through Good Star.

The DOJ is not pursuing action against Malaysian Official 1 (MO1), which it claimed received a total of US$731 million that was allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan had said that MO1 is Najib.

Najib has denied wrongdoing or taking public funds for personal gains.

Attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali also cleared the prime minister of wrongdoing on the grounds that the multi-billion ringgit deposits in his personal bank accounts were a "donation" from a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.



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