PETALING JAYA – United States Attorney-General Jeff Sessions is unlikely to seek assistance from his counterpart here to complete their criminal investigations into 1MDB, a lawyer said.
Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla said this was because AG Mohamed Apandi Ali had declined to extend the mutual legal assistance (MLA) twice when sought by the Swiss AG.
“It is highly unlikely for Sessions to get in touch with Apandi to request for cooperation following the experience of the Swiss AG,” Haniff said.
He said US investigators would likely be talking to businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, and Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stepson Riza Aziz, as they were among those named in US Department of Justice (DoJ) documents. The US government is seeking to recover properties it says were bought from money stolen from 1MDB.
Haniff, who is lawyer to former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said this in response to Sessions’ statement on Dec 5 that the 1MDB issue was “kleptocracy at its worst” and that the DoJ was working to provide justice to the victims.
Lawyer S N Nair, however, said Sessions would attempt to get the assistance of Apandi as the origin of the alleged activities emanated from Malaysia.
“Therefore the only way to conduct and complete investigations is to seek MLA from Malaysia,” he said, adding however that the MLA was voluntary.
Nair said Malaysia was a sovereign nation and the US must have sufficient grounds to get the MLA or else Apandi was not bound to extend any assistance.
“So, it all depends on the AG of Malaysia.”
FMT got in touch with Apandi via WhatsApp on whether he would extend the MLA to the US but did not get a reply.
Speaking at a global forum on asset recovery in Washington recently, Sessions said the 1MDB-linked assets accounted for nearly half of some US$3.5 billion in total proceeds seized or restrained by the DoJ, tied to money-laundering offences.
1MDB was created by the Malaysian government to promote long-term economic development for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
Sessions said “allegedly corrupt officials” in 1MDB had reportedly spent US$200 million on real estate in Southern California and New York, US$130 million on artwork, invested US$100 million in an American music label and US$265 million on a yacht.
“In total, 1MDB officials allegedly laundered more than US$4.5 billion in funds through a complex web of opaque transactions and fraudulent shell companies, with bank accounts in countries ranging from Switzerland and Singapore to Luxembourg and the United States,” Sessions told the international audience at the forum.
The DoJ has put on hold its asset forfeiture suit to conduct investigations to prosecute suspects allegedly involved in money laundering using the US financial system.
Najib, who until last year was the chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Apandi in January last year.