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The US Justice Department moved today to recover $540 million in assets it says were stolen from Malaysia's troubled wealth fund.
It's part of an effort to seize luxury property, art and other ill-gotten assets linked to fraud at the government- controlled fund, which is intended to promote economic development projects in the Asian nation. Prosecutors are seeking a $165 million yacht known as the Equanimity, rights to the movie "Dumb and Dumber To," artwork by Picasso and Basquiat and millions of dollars in jewelry.
The move was the latest development in a complex money laundering scheme the Justice Department says was intended to enrich top-level officials of the fund. Last summer, prosecutors moved to recover more than $1 billion diverted from the fund to pay for properties in New York and California, a $35 million jet, art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet and to help finance the movies, "Dumb and Dumber To" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
The Justice Department says more than $4.5 billion has been stolen from the fund known informally as 1MDB. The case is the largest single action the Justice Department has taken under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which seeks to recover foreign bribery proceeds and embezzled funds.
"These cases involve billions of dollars that should have been used to help the people of Malaysia, but instead was used by a small number of individuals to fuel their astonishing greed," said Sandra R. Brown, acting US attorney for the Central District of California. She described a "web of lies and bogus transactions" and said "we simply will not allow the United States to be a place where corrupt individuals can expect to hide assets and lavishly spend money that should be used for the benefit of citizens of other nations.