US authorities intend to file criminal charges against a financier in connection with an international scandal rooted in Malaysia that they believe could be one of the largest financial frauds ever, according to people familiar with the matter.
The scandal involves a state fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, and the focus of the criminal investigation is Jho Low, a flamboyant financier the US Justice Department portrayed in civil asset-seizure lawsuits in July as central to an alleged plot to siphon billions of dollars from the fund.
The civil suits, which are proceeding separately from the criminal probe, seek more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) of assets, including van Gogh and Monet paintings and luxury real estate in New York and Los Angeles, allegedly bought with stolen money. The Justice Department is currently seeking to add recently discovered Low family property to the list of assets it is trying to seize, including a yacht Mr. Low controls, the US$165 million, 300-foot, helipad-equipped Equanimity, people familiar with the US investigation said.
In addition, Singapore has been building a potential criminal case against Mr. Low, said a person involved in the city-state's investigation. A Justice Department team has just finished a visit to Singapore to conduct interviews related to Mr. Low and other aspects of the 1MDB matter, said two people familiar with the trip.
Mr. Low, a Malaysian whose full name is Low Taek Jho, and his lawyers didn't respond to requests to comment. In the past, Mr. Low has told news organisations he was the victim of political infighting in Malaysia and was only an informal adviser to 1MDB. His family is taking legal action to fight the US asset-seizure lawsuits.
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