U.S. to Return $200 Million 1MDB-Linked Funds to Malaysia

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. authorities are preparing to return about $200 million of funds allegedly misappropriated from troubled state fund 1MDB to Malaysia, according to people familiar with the matter.

The total includes about $140 million from the sale of a stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel and some $60 million from a settlement paid by the producer of the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie, said two of the people, who asked not to be named as the details are private. The transfer could happen as soon as next week, they said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has reached out to countries from Switzerland to Singapore for help in tracking and recouping the $4.5 billion believed to have been siphoned from 1MDB. The scandal surrounding the state fund, set up to finance development projects in the Southeast Asian nation, has ensnared people and institutions from Malaysia’s former leader Najib Razak to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Representatives of the U.S. Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday after regular business hours.

A U.S. court has made an order on a plane that’s parked in Singapore, the city-state’s police said in response to a Bloomberg News query. "We are in discussions with the relevant foreign authorities on this," the police said. A $35 million Bombardier Global 5000 jet which belonged to Jho Low, the fugitive financier who has been painted as the mastermind behind the scandal, is among several of his assets the U.S. is trying to seize.

Malaysia pulled in $126 million last month from the sale of a super yacht once owned by Low. That was the largest amount of money that the country has recovered related to 1MDB, after it received S$15.3 million ($11.1 million) from neighboring Singapore last year. Low has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.

Singaporean authorities are preparing to return about S$35 million surrendered by former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his family in connection with the 1MDB scandal to Malaysia, people familiar with the matter said separately. A Singapore court order was granted March 21 for the sum to be repatriated to its "rightful owner, 1MDB," the city-state’s police said.

The $140 million stake in the Park Lane hotel, which sits on Central Park South, was sold in February after Low agreed to drop his claims on the property. The $60 million was paid by Red Granite Pictures Inc., co-founded by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over claims that it financed the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie with funds misappropriated from 1MDB.

This week, the Justice Department said a set of diamond jewelry worth $1.7 million that Low gave to his mother, allegedly using money from 1MDB, will be returned to the U.S. as part of a forfeiture lawsuit.

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