Malaysia said the US government returned around $57m recovered from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) assets in the “first instalment” of funds to be repatriated under a US kleptocracy asset recovery initiative.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ), in the biggest case in its anti-kleptocracy programme, is pursuing billions of dollars it says were misappropriated from 1MDB, a state fund founded by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
The $57m repatriated to Malaysia was forfeited from Hollywood film production company Red Granite Pictures, which is linked to Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, according to the Malaysian Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).
The DoJ is also in the process of remitting another $139m, pending the sale of a Manhattan property linked to fugitive Malaysian financier, Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, the AGC said in a statement.
Meanwhile, former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng pleaded not guilty to criminal charges linked to the 1MDB scandal in an appearance at the New York federal court on Monday.
Last year, the DoJ accused 46-year-old Ng of conspiring to launder money and bribe government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi through bond offerings that Goldman Sachs handled.
He was extradited on May 3 to New York from Kuala Lumpur, where he had been jailed since November.
US Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, of US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, allowed Ng, a Malaysian citizen, to be released in exchange for a $20m bond.
He was fitted for an ankle bracelet, and will be staying at an undisclosed location in the New York City area that the court approved.
His lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said he convinced Ng to “come to the U.S. and face the music” because it was evident that prosecutors were not going to drop the case, and his client had become very ill.
Ng, who left Goldman Sachs in 2014, faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of the three charges against him in the US.
Prosecutors estimate that high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates misappropriated $4.5bn between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.
Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to it about how the bond proceeds would be used.