When Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia meets US President Donald Trump at the White House on Sept. 12, as nearly as it can be determined, it will be the first time America’s chief executive has ever met with a foreign leader being pursued by the US Justice Department for corruption.
Najib is infamously known as Malaysian Official 1, under investigation in what the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Section calls the biggest kleptocracy case ever brought against a foreign leader, with spectacular spending across the US and with ties to glamorous figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been forced to return Basquiat and Monet paintings given to him as gifts.
Malaysian opposition spokesman Tony Pua once called 1MDB the “mother of the other of the mother of all scandals. Najib is suspected of participating in the theft of as much as US$4.5 billion that is said to have gone missing from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a state-backed development fund that is said to be more than US$11 billion in the red, due not only to theft but epic mismanagement. At least US$682 million is alleged to have gone into Najib’s own pockets.
A series of questions to the White House asking the rationale for inviting Najib, who is also the subject of a major investigation into kickbacks and bribes in France, elicited only this message:
“Thank you for contacting the White House. We are carefully reviewing your message. President Donald J. Trump believes the strength of our country lies in the spirit of the American people and their willingness to stay informed and get involved. President Trump appreciates you taking the time to reach out.”
Speculation about the invitation centers around the Trump administration’s concern that several Southeast Asian nations are veering into the orbit of China, whose president, Xi Jinping, has pursued aggressive diplomatic, economic and political initiatives across the region to seek to diminish US sway. Trump has also invited Philippine President Rodrigo S. Duterte, a psychopath whose misguided war on drugs has taken the lives of an estimated 10,000 poor and disadvantaged Filipinos, and Prayuth Chan-ocha, whose 2014 coup ended a democratically elected government in Thailand, and which remains one of the most repressive societies in Southeast Asia. Both Thailand and the Philippines have drawn closer to China in the face of criticism by the previous Obama administration.
A call to the media section of the Justice Department in Washington, DC, received no response on the status of the investigation. The Los Angeles unit of the Justice Department, however, is continuing to seek to catalog the head-spinning list of assets thought to have been stolen by Najib and his family and associates. Although a query was met with a refusal to discuss the case, the investigation is reliably said to be going forward. It is not expected to be completed in 2017.
Documents made available to the press indicate that almost immediately after 1MdB got underway, the looting started on a planet-wide basis, with hundreds of millions of dollars disappearing out of the development company’s accounts into sham accounts in Caribbean financial vehicles and into a series of Swiss banks, which have been charged with wrongdoing in Singapore.
“Maybe Najib Razak can convince Donald Trump that he is not a crook,” former US ambassador to Malaysia John R. Malott said in a Facebook post. “I am sure, however. that the US authorities would have briefed POTUS on the controversies surrounding the beleaguered Malaysian leader and the state of US-Malaysia relations.”
The current documents clearly identify the US$682 million that mysteriously appeared in Najib’s personal accounts in 2013 as having come from 1MDB, not mysterious Saudi benefactors, as Najib has claimed.
Others are Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, Rosmah’s son by a previous marriage; Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, the flamboyant Malaysian Chinese financier who convinced Najib to take over an obscure Terengganu fund and turn it into 1MDB. Jho Low has made himself scarce after an epic romp in New York, photographed guzzling Krystal champagne out of magnums and pouring it into a series of Broadway blondes including Paris Hilton. He is said to be on his 300-foot motor yacht Equanimity somewhere in waters near Cambodia.
The suspects allegedly “conspired to divert billions of dollars through various means, including by defrauding foreign banks and by sending foreign wire communications in furtherance of the scheme, and thereafter, to launder the proceeds of that criminal conduct, including in and through US financial institutions.“
The funds diverted were “used for the personal benefit of the co-conspirators and their relatives and associates, including to purchase luxury real estate in the United States and overseas, pay gambling expenses at Las Vegas casinos, acquire more than US$200 million worth of artwork, purchase lavish gifts for family members and associates, invest in a major New York real estate development project, and fund the production of major Hollywood films.”
As we have reported before, the government is seeking forfeiture of the following assets, but it’s always good to report them again:
- The Equanimity, worth US$250 million.
- A Bombardier Global 500 private jet, worth US$35 million purchased by Jho Low
- A US$5 million Vincent Van Goh painting
- Two Monets, Saint-Georges Majeur (US$35 million) and Nympheas (US$58 million)
- Two Picassos, “Tete de femme, (US$40 million) and “Nature Morte au Crane de Taureau” (US$3 million), which Jho Low gave to actor Leonardo diCaprio.
- Framed 3-sheet color lithograph poster created by the German artist Heinz Schulz-Neudamm for the 1927 silent film “Metropolis.”
- Collage by Jean-Michel Basquiat titled “Redman One”
- Photograph titled “Boy with the Toy Hand Grenade” by Diane Arbus
- Condominium at One Madison Park in New York, owned through a nominee company known as Cricklewood One Madison Park LLc
- Common stocks in FW Sports Investments LLC.
And presumably for Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s wife:
- 72-carat heart-shaped diamond
- 88-carat fancy intense pink diamond pendant surrounded by 11-carat fancy intense pink diamonds.
- 18-carat white gold diamond matching jewelry set, including diamond necklace, diamond earring, diamond bracelet, and diamond ring.
- Pair of 18K white gold diamond earrings consisting a 5.55-carat diamond 5.49-carat diamond
- Pair of diamond earrings and matching diamond ring, consisting a 7.53-carat flawless type 2A diamond, a 3.05-carat flawless type 2A diamond and a 3.08-carat flawless type 2A diamond
The government has already sought the assets generated by the blockbuster “Wolf of Wall Street” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which was produced by Red Granite Pictures, financed by Reza Aziz and Jho Low with 1MDB money. DiCaprio has already handed back the Basquiat, the Picasso and Marlon Brando’s Oscar for the 1954 movie “On The Waterfront, which were presented to him as gifts by Jho Low.
Other assets already being sought include:
- The luxury hotel Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills plus all rents and profits
- Real Property in Beverly Hills, known as the Hillcrest Property and said to be worth U$100 million
- A US$33.5 million penthouse atop the Upper West Side’s Park Laurel condominium
- A US$30.5 million Time Warner penthouse
- A US$39 million home on Oriole Drive in the Hollywood Hills, owned by Jho Low that is said to have kicked off LA’s torrid ultra-luxury property market
- A US$13.8 million apartment at 118 Greene Street in New York, purchased by Jho Low in 2014
- A share of the US$2.2 million in assets in EMIU Music Group purchased in 2012 by Sony in which Low’s Jynwei Capital participated
- €25.21 million in euros held in an escrpw account at UBS, in Switzerland as proceeds for the Monte painting “Nympheas”
- A US$98 million penthouse, office building and flat on Stratton Street in London, across from the Ritz Hotel in the fashionable Mayfair District, with a view of Buckingham Palace
- The rights and profit from the movie “Dumb and Dumber To” produced by Red Granite “as well as the right to collect and receive any profits, royalties, and proceeds of distribution owned by or owed to Red Granite Pictures or its affiliate.
- The rights and profit to “Daddy’s Home” which was also produced by Red Granite Pictures
- 5 million shares of preferred stock ij Palantir Technologies held by Tarek Obaid, the CEO and co-founder of PetroSaudi, a shell company into which much of the fraud was directed.
- Electrum Assets, including (i) Global Holdings, L.P. (“Electrum Global”); (ii) TEG Global GP Ltd.; and (iii) TEG Services Holding Inc. (“Electrum Services”) (collectively “Electrum”), owned, held or acquired, directly or indirectly, by JW Aurum (Cayman) Gp Ltd.