Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency has begun legal action to recover 270 million ringgit ($65.1m) embezzled from the scandal-ridden state fund 1MDB, and estimates assets overseas worth a further $5bn may also be recoverable.
Latheefa Koya, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said the agency has filed complaints against 41 individuals and entities to recover money given to them by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib was overthrown in a shock defeat in general elections last year and is currently on trial in Kuala Lumpur in the first of a series of cases related to the scandal at 1MDB. He pleaded not guilty when the trial opened and has denied any wrongdoing.
Authorities in the United States estimate some $4.5bn was stolen from the fund, which was established in 2009, and the fraud is under investigation in at least six countries.
Latheefa said on Friday the civil forfeiture by Malaysia was a “straightforward case” as there was a clear money trail showing money from 1MDB had been channelled into Najib’s bank account.
The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which was the dominant party in the country’s government for some six decades before last May’s defeat, was the main recipient of the money, she added. Najib was the party’s president.
Others named in the forfeiture were the Malaysian Chinese Association, one of UMNO’s partners in the ruling coalition, 12 companies including a jeweller, four NGOs and five foundations.
Two of the recipients had already returned about two million ringgit ($481,630), the MACC said.