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Thursday, July 21, 2016

1MDB CORRUPTION - MEGA KLEPTOCRACY SEIZURE

(adapted from M. Musa Bakri)
  
1MDB was created in 2009 to initiate economic development through international partnership and foreign direct investment with the ultimate goal of improving the well-being of the Malaysian people. Unfortunately and tragically, a number of corrupt officials treated this public trust as a personal bank account. Our complaint alleges that from 2001 to 2015 these officials and associates conspired to misappropriate and launder billions of dollars from 1MDB. They laundered their funds through opaque actions in bank accounts in countries around the world including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States. The funds were then used to purchase a range of assets for the conspirators and their relatives and associates including high-end real estate in New York and Los Angeles and art works by Monet and a Bombardier Jet aircraft.

A complex web of transactions these co-conspirators used to launder billions of dollars they stole from the people of Malaysia. In 2012 through which 1MDB raised some of the money siphoned off by the corrupt officials and their associates. The stated purpose of the bond offerings was to allow 1MDB to raise money to invest in various energy assets of the Malaysian Government and people. Almost immediately after receiving the proceeds of the two bond issues, roughly 40 percent of the money that was raised, which was about $1.7B, was transferred out of 1MDB account and into Swiss bank account that was in the name of a shell corporation incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The complain alleges that the name of that shell company was chosen because it sounded like the name of a legitimate company that was involved in the bond offering but in fact the Swiss bank account was controlled by corrupt officials and associates.

From Switzerland the corrupt officials transferred money using a series of transactions involving more shell companies and bank accounts located all over the globe. Eventually more than $223M of that money found its way in the account of shell companies whose beneficial owner was a close relative of a senior 1MDB official and that individual used the the money to buy luxury real estate in the US and other assets and also used the money to fund a motion picture company called Red Granite who in turn used more than $100M of that money to finance the award-winning 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Of course neither 1MDB nor the Malaysian people saw a penny of profit from that film or the other assets purchased with funds siphoned from 1MDB. Instead that money went to relatives and associates of the corrupt officials of 1MDB and others.

In early 2013 in connection with a third bond offering arranged by Goldman Sachs International. In this offering, 1MDB raised approximately $3 billion purportedly to form a joint venture with an entity from Au Dhabi to promote growth   Instead the officials misappropriated a significant amount of the funds raised. In fact only days after the initial bond sale, approximately $1.26 billion was diverted for the benefit of individuals associated with 1MDB. Approximately $137 million of the pilfered money was spent to purchase works of art, including a $34 million work by Claude Monet. It was not to the benefit of the population of Malaysia but to enhance the luxury and lavish lifestyles of those stealing money from 1MDB. Funds diverted from the third bond offering were also traced to the purchase of an interest in the Park Lane Hotel in New York.  The laundering of the proceeds continued throughout 2013 with an additional $106 million used to purchase an interest in EMI Music Publishing.

Not long after 1MDB was established in 2009 corrupt officials at 1MDB and their associates began a sophisticated scheme to enrich themselves. In the first two years of their existence, almost $1billion was transferred out of 1MDB to bank accounts in shell corporations that were controlled by associates of corrupt 1MDB officials. The funds were stolen under the pretense of having 1MDB invest in an oil exploration joint venture with a foreign partner. On paper, the $1billion was to be 1MDB’s in what purported to be national resource rights. But this wasn’t a legitimate investment for 1MDB or the Malaysian people. Instead, the funds transferred to the shell companies were used for the personal enrichment of the corrupt officials and their associates. They used the money to pay gambling debts at Las Vegas casinos, they rented luxury yachts, they hired an interior decorator in London and spent millions on properties some of which is subject to this seizure and forfeitures. Among them was a jet purchased at the price of $35 million.

EMI is the world’s third largest music publishing company by revenue, and the company has the rights to publish approximately 2.3 million musical compositions including a number of top hits from Grammy award-winning artists. Since the conspirators purchased them in EMI, it was they and not the citizens of Malaysia who earn money every time those songs were performed publicly, recorded, or downloaded. In seeking to seize these forfeited items the Department of Justice is sending a message that we will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt and that we will not allow it to be a platform for money laundering or a place to hide and invest in stolen riches.


Corruption threatened good governance, sustainability development and the democratic process and fair business practices. Corruption erodes trust in government and private institutions alike and undermines confidence and fairness of open markets, and it breeds contempt for the rule of law.

Corruption unfortunately, will never be eradicated because quite frankly, greed never goes away. We have to do what we can to stop it, to ensure the legitimacy of public officials and to create a level playing field for all.

 Assets do not become corrupt by themselves; individuals through their corrupt acts created those assets.

The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative which was established by AG Eric Holder in 2010 to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and where possible to use the recovered assets to benefit the people harmed. This case and the kleptocracy initiative as a whole should serve as a sign of our firm commitment to fighting international corruption. And it should also send a signal that the Department of Justice is determined to prevent the American financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption.

When corrupt officials bring their ill-gotten gains to the US, they also bring with them their corrupt practices and disregard for the rule of law. And that presents a threat to our economy, impacts trade and investment, fuels the growth of criminal enterprises, and undermines our democratic processes.

The Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint seeking to forfeit and recover more than [US]$1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds stolen from 1MDB. This $1B in assets are just a portion of the more than $3B that was stolen from 1MDB and laundered to American institutions in violation of US law.

This is a civil complaint against the assets that were acquired from alleged corrupt acts perpetrated on 1MDB. Those assets are now legally tied up. There could be two possible responses. At one extreme the owners of those assets would choose not to challenge the complaint at which point those assets become US Government property and will be auctioned off. The US Government would recoup its costs and the people of Malaysia would be entitled to claim the leftover. The other would be for their owners to challenge the order. That would incur substantial legal fees as the filings are in many courts.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is a seasoned professional prosecutor with a Harvard law degree while her Malaysian counterpart is a failed UMNO operative with a legal qualification from an obscure British Inn of Courts.


The Malaysian people were defrauded on an enormous scale. Its schemes whose tentacles reached around the world. This case is beyond any single agency’s ability to effectively investigate.

Stable, healthy democracies around the world are the cornerstone of global security.

No one is above or beyond the law.

1 comment:

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