1MDB saga: What we know so far

1MDB saga: What we know so far

The long-running saga involving Malaysia's state fund (1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB) saw two major moves by authorities in the United States and Singapore in the past two days. 

The fund, which was launched and overseen by Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, now faces United States court allegations that billions were stolen from it by politically-connected Malaysian and Middle Eastern figures.

The 1MDB probe has widened to include other countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, Britain and Switzerland. 

Singapore authorities today (July 21) revealed it had seized S$240 million in assets through its probe into alleged fraud and money-laundering activities related to 1MDB.

Both Najib and 1MDB have denied any wrongdoing.

Here is a quick look at the latest developments and key personalities involved.


Low Taek Jho

Photo: South China Morning Post

- Malaysian businessman who is also known as Jho Low.

- Low, who helped set up 1MDB and reportedly its advisor, is the owner of a company called Good Star, which allegedly fraudulently received US$1.03 billion from 1MDB, according to a latest lawsuit by the US Justice Department (DOJ).

- It said Low laundered more than US$400 million of the misappropriated funds through Good Star into the US.

- The funds were used for "the personal gratification of Low and his associates".

- The DOJ alleges that Low used the funds to make luxury purchases of penthouses in New York, a mansion in Beverly Hills and expensive art.

- It also alleged that Low transferred US$85 million to casinos in Las Vegas within an eight-month span from 2009-2010.

- Mr Low was also alleged to have channelled 1MDB funds from Good Star to Red Granite Pictures to finance its production of motion picture The Wolf Of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Photo: Internet

- Some S$120 million of funds and assets reportedly seized by Singapore authorities on July 21 were connected to Low and his immediate family. This likely includes his two apartments in Twenty-One Anguilla Park, including a penthouse which he bought for S$42.9 million in 2013.

Photo: The Business Times

Riza Aziz

Photo: Reuters

- The stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

- Mr Riza's film production company, Red Granite Pictures, has been accused of receiving part of the funds from 1MDB.

- The company told Bloomberg in May 2016 that as far as it was aware, "none of the funding received by Red Granite was in any way irregular or illegitimate".

- Mr Riza also reportedly spent at least US$50 million in 1MDB-linked funds on luxury properties in New York in Los Angeles, according to The Wall Street Journal.

- Mr Riza, who is in his 30s, has denied any wrongdoing, reported the International Business Times.

Najib Razak

Photo: Reuters

- Investigations between March-May 2013 revealed that US$681 million had been transferred from 1MDB's account to Najib's bank account.

- Najib denied this, saying that the Saudi royal family had wired the money to him as a "personal donation", without any expectations.

- An anti-corruption agency later corroborated his statement.

- Close to US$14 million had also been allegedly wired to Najib's account from a smaller subsidiary of 1MDB. Najib denied the allegation.

- The civil lawsuits in the US did not name Najib, referring instead to a "Malaysian Official 1", but they contain details that appear to directly implicate him.

- Najib's spokesperson said on July 21 that Malaysia will be cooperating with any lawful investigation.

Khadem al-Qubaisi 

Photo: Reuters

- Abu Dhabi tycoon, 44, was the managing director of the International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), a state-run company which were involved in bond sales with 1MDB from 2012.

- The DOJ said Qubaisi used 1MDB funds to buy a New York penthouse and Beverly Hills properties.

- Qubaisi was also chairman of Aabar Investments PJS, an IPIC subsidiary which was also involved with 1MDB's bond deals.

Mohammed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny

Photo: Internet

- He was the chief executive of Aabar Investments PJS from 2010 to last year. 

- He allegedly bought a townhouse in upscale Belgravia in London, the DOJ said. 

Eric Tan Kim Loong

- A Malaysian who is a business associate of Mr Low Taek Jho.

- He was named as the beneficial owner of several bank accounts into which "misappropriated 1MDB funds were transferred", according to the suit.

- The Wall Street Journal had reported that some funds were transferred, via intermediaries, to a shell company called Tanore Finance Corp., registered in the British Virgin Islands, according to investigators. The beneficial owner of Tanore when it was first set up was Tan.


- Local investigations began in March 2015. It is still ongoing.

DBS, Standard Chartered Bank and UBS

Photo: AFP

- Singapore authorities on July 21 said they found lapses in anti-money laundering (AML) controls in DBS and the Singapore branches of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) and UBS.

- The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said there were "instances of control failings in all three banks and, in some cases, weaknesses in the processes for accepting clients and monitoring transactions. There was also undue delay in detecting and reporting suspicious transactions."

- Deficiencies observed in DBS, SCB and UBS related to lapses in specific processes and by individual officers.

- But MAS' inspections did not reveal pervasive control weaknesses or staff misconduct within these banks.

- Action against these banks will be taken. 

Falcon Private Bank

- Substantial breaches of anti-money laundering regulations was found in the Singapore branch in April 2016, including failure to adequately assess irregularities in activities pertaining to customers' accounts and to file suspicious transaction reports.

Raffles Money Change

- A licensed money changer and remittance agent.

- MAS said examination revealed weak management oversight, inadequate risk management practices and internal controls.

BSI Bank

Photo: AFP

- MAS revoked its licence to do business in Singapore on May 24, 2016.

- MAS cited poor management oversight and gross misconduct by some of the bank's senior staff. 

- This was first such shutdown of a merchant bank in Singapore in 32 years. 

Graphic: The Business Times

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, International Business Times, The Straits Times, AFP, Reuters

chenj@sph.com.sg, prabukm@sph.com.sg, xiuhuil@sph.com.sg, maryanns@sph.com.sg

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