The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture of assets worth $96 million. The assets are allegedly associated with an international money laundering conspiracy to misappropriate funds from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The complaints filed last week name assets traceable to 2012 and 2013 bond offerings that include luxury real estate in Paris, artwork by Andy Warhol and Claude Monet, and accounts maintained by banks in Switzerland and Luxembourg.
“The complaint filed today seeks to forfeit a range of luxury items—including real estate in Paris, artwork by Monet, Warhol, and Basquiat, and international bank accounts—all of which were allegedly acquired with funds stolen from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s action is just the latest demonstration of the Criminal Division’s longstanding commitment to tracing, seizing, and forfeiting assets acquired through grand corruption and, whatever possible, returning those assets to the people from whom they were stolen.”
According to the complaints, from 2009 through 2015, more than $4.5 billion in 1MDB funds were embezzled by high-ranking Malaysian officials and their associates. The sovereign wealth fund was created by the Malaysian government to promote economic development through foreign investments and global partnerships. Its funds were supposed to be used for improving the lives of the Malaysian people.
Members of the conspiracy allegedly siphoned more than $4.5 billion from the fund. They used fake documents and representations to allegedly launder the funds through complex transactions and shell companies with foreign bank accounts. The transactions concealed the origin and source of the funds, allowing them to pass through U.S. banks and pay for assets located in the U.S. and abroad.
Together with earlier civil forfeiture complaints, the DOJ has sought to seize more than $1.8 billion in assets that can be traced to the 1MDB fund. The U.S. has so far helped Malaysia to recover nearly $1.1 billion in assets tied to the international money laundering scheme.
“The FBI will relentlessly pursue international corruption investigations,” said FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the Criminal Investigative Division. “As efforts in this case have shown, our dedicated investigators will pursue corruption, uncover proceeds of illicit activity, and return ill-gotten gains to the rightful owners. In this case, to the people of Malaysia.”
Civil asset forfeiture is a process used by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to seize property—real estate, cash, vehicles—that is believed to be tied to criminal activity, even if the property owner hasn’t been arrested or convicted of a crime.
A civil forfeiture complaint is only an allegation that an asset was involved in a crime. Anyone who has their property seized through such action should immediately consult a competent attorney who can review the case and figure out the best way to move forward.
South Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has your lawful property been seized using asset forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of South Florida’s most experienced civil asset forfeiture attorneys.