HAVING smouldered for more than a year, international investigations into 1MDB—a Malaysian state investment firm at the heart of a sprawling financial scandal—are now burning fiercely. On July 20th America’s Justice Department began proceedings to seize more than $1 billion of assets, which it alleged had been purchased with funds siphoned out of the firm. It is the largest single action the department has ever launched.
The goodies concerned include luxury properties, artworks by Van Gogh and Monet, and a jet, according to court filings. Authorities say 1MDB’s money was also spent on gambling and used to make the “Wolf of Wall Street”, a film about a high-living swindler starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was made by a production company co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak. (A spokesman for the firm, Red Granite Pictures, said neither it nor Mr Riza had done anything wrong.)
Mr Riza is among several people the Justice Department claims are “relevant” to its case. So is Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian tycoon who helped to set up 1MDB, and two former officials at an Abu Dhabi state firm with which 1MDB did business. Also listed in the complaint (but not named) are four employees of 1MDB and a high-ranking Malaysian government official who is described as a relative of Mr Riza and for the moment known only…Continue reading