The U.S. Justice Department has moved to seize more than $1 billion in assets allegedly acquired using funds misappropriated from the Malaysian economic development fund 1MDB, reports The Guardian. The news follows a months-long international FBI probe, as well as five investigations around the world, and it means that up to $6 billion was allegedly skimmed from the sovereign fund and used to support the lavish lifestyles of several men connected to the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the funds defrauded from the Malaysian people were used to pay for luxury real estate in the U.S. and Europe, gambling expenses in Las Vegas casinos, a London interior designer, more than $200 million in artwork by artists including Van Gogh and Monet, and the production of films including the Oscar-nominated “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
“Unfortunately and tragically, a number of corrupt officials treated this public trust as a personal bank account,” Lynch said. The seizures targeted by investigators include property, art drawings and a Claude Monet painting, a private jet and other assets purchased with money allegedly misappropriated from the fund. The civil action and asset seizures represent the “largest single action ever brought” by the justice department’s kleptocracy asset initiative, Lynch said.”