The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached a settlement of its civil forfeiture case against Khadem al-Qubaisi, an Emirati businessman who allegedly misappropriated billions from a Malaysian investment development fund and laundered the money in the U.S. by buying high-end properties.
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is an investment development fund created by the Malaysian government to promote economic development in Malaysia through direct foreign investments and international partnerships. Its funds were intended to be used for improving the lives of the Malaysian people.
According to the Justice Department’s complaint, from 2009 through 2015, more than $4.5 billion from 1MDB was allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials in charge of the fund, including al-Qubaisi, through a criminal conspiracy involving international money laundering and bribery.
Al-Qubaisi is accused of embezzling and laundering monies from the development fund through financial institutions in several jurisdictions, including the U.S., Luxembourg, Singapore, and Switzerland.
The assets subject to the DOJ’s settlement agreement include the sale proceeds of luxury properties in Beverly Hills and New York City worth more than $49 million. With the conclusion of this settlement, together with prior disposition of other forfeiture cases, the DOJ will have recovered nearly $1.1 billion in assets associated with the 1MDB money laundering and bribery scheme. This represents the largest civil forfeiture case ever concluded by the DOJ.
“This settlement is another milestone in the asset forfeiture cases related to the 1MDB money laundering scheme—cases that have already led to the recovery of well over $1 billion,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a press release. “Funds stolen from the people of Malaysia were used to acquire high-end properties, including residences each worth tens of millions of dollars. The cases resolved today continue to demonstrate our commitment to protecting the integrity of American financial institutions and ensuring that corrupt players cannot use our nation to conceal stolen riches.”
Under the terms of the DOJ’s settlement, the Atlantic Property Trust, which oversees the assets being seized, agreed to forfeit all assets subject to pending forfeiture complaints in which they have a potential interest. The trustee, who is the wife of al-Qubaisi, is also required to cooperate with the DOJ in the transfer, management, and disposition of the relevant assets.
The DOJ noted that several related asset forfeiture complaints remain pending against assets associated with other alleged co-conspirators.
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process that allows authorities to seize property—cars, real estate, cash, etc.—that is suspected of being connected to a crime without necessarily charging the property owner of any wrongdoing. To get back the seized property, the owner must prove in court that it wasn’t involved in any criminal activity.
Proponents of the system see it as a powerful tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, since it allows law enforcement to seize cash and other assets belonging to suspected drug traffickers. However, critics argue that innocent property owners often become embroiled in the process to the extent that their 4th and 5th Amendment rights are violated.
South Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
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