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U.S. probe of Malaysia's 1MDB picks up speed after Najib's election loss

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By and Schectman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. investigators have accelerated their probe into the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund set up by former Malaysian and are exchanging more evidence with Malaysian authorities since Najib lost last month's election, three sources with direct knowledge of the probe said.

At least six countries, including Malaysia, the and Switzerland, are investigating accusations that pocketed part of $4.5 billion allegedly stolen from the state-run investment fund,

The probe received a boost after Najib unexpectedly lost the election on May 9.

Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing in connection with alleged graft involving 1MDB.

The is confident that Malaysia's new government is more willing to cooperate, whereas U.S. authorities saw Najib's as actively obstructing the investigation, according to two people with direct knowledge of the investigation.

While U.S. prosecutors have considered the possibility of charging Najib or his associates, they would prefer be the one to file criminal charges against any Malaysian

"That's how its supposed to work," a U.S. law enforcement said.

Najib has retained former U.S. and the firm of to represent him in connection with the U.S. investigations, a source familiar with Najib's legal team said.

In a series of asset seizures last year, U.S. prosecutors alleged in court papers that some of the money stolen from 1MDB was placed into the account of an individual identified as "Malaysian 1."

Since Najib's election defeat, Malaysia's new government has been scrambling to recover billions of dollars allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.

It is considering asking the to get to return nearly $600 million in fees it earned from bonds raised for the sovereign wealth fund, two sources familiar with the matter told on Friday.

No formal request has yet been made but top officials are actively discussing the plan within the government, they said.

Najib's successor, Mahathir Mohamad, said was also seeking to arrest Low Taek Jho, a central figure in the scandal who advised on investments and negotiated deals for 1MDB.

(Reporting by and Schectman; editing by Clive McKeef)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, June 09 2018. 06:14 IST