Malaysia will make a claim for the US$1 billion in assets recovered by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) from fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday, as they were bought with money looted from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund. “Part of the 1MDB money was used by Jho Low to buy assets in America … worth about US$680 million. He has now decided not to contest against the DOJ. Therefore the DOJ now can freeze the assets, and the assets were bought with Malaysian money. We have proof that it is Malaysian money,” said Mahathir to reporters in the southern state of Johor today. The 1MDB corruption scandal , which saw US$4.5 billion siphoned out of the fund, involves investigations in multiple jurisdictions and has seen Malaysia’s ex-prime minister Najib Razak on trial for scores of graft and abuse of power charges. 1MDB scandal: Jho Low not off the hook despite US$1 billion settlement The DOJ on Wednesday announced that it had recovered the assets from Low in what was Washington’s biggest-ever civil forfeiture. It confirmed reports that it had reached a settlement with the Malaysian businessman believed to be at the centre of the 1MDB affair, adding that it did not include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing and was separate from criminal proceedings that are pending against him. The settlement, and prior forfeiture cases brought against Low, meant the US had “recovered or assisted in the recovery” of more than US$1 billion in assets from him, the DOJ said. “As alleged in the complaints, Jho Low and others, including officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, engaged in a brazen multi-year conspiracy to launder money embezzled or otherwise misappropriated from 1MDB, and he used those funds, among other things, to engage in extravagant spending sprees, acquiring one-of-a-kind artwork and luxury real estate, gambling freely at casinos, and propping up his lavish lifestyle,” said assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski of the DOJ’s criminal division. The DOJ said the assets in the forfeiture included “high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London; a luxury boutique hotel in Beverly Hills; and tens of millions of dollars in business investments that Low allegedly made with funds traceable to misappropriated 1MDB monies”. Fugitive Malaysian tycoon Jho Low ‘nears US$1 billion settlement with US over 1MDB scandal’ In a statement through his US-based spokesman, Low said he was “very pleased” with the “landmark comprehensive, global settlement”. “Importantly, the agreement does not constitute an admission of guilt, liability or any form of wrongdoing by me or the asset owners. We believe all parties consider this resolution, which is subject to final court approval, to be a successful and satisfactory result,” he said. Low is wanted in several jurisdictions for crimes in connection with 1MDB, specifically conspiring to launder billions of dollars and bribing officials to turn a blind eye to misappropriations. Arrest warrants for him have been issued in Singapore and Malaysia, although the businessman has maintained his innocence and refused to return to Malaysia, insisting that he has no faith in the justice system under Mahathir’s administration. While reports have emerged that Low is currently living in the United Arab Emirates and has obtained asylum in another country on the basis of political persecution, the South China Morning Post could not independently verify these claims. Said a spokesperson for Low, through his attorneys: “We understand that Mr Low was offered asylum in August 2019 by a country that acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights.” Malaysian authorities have been working furiously to recover the looted funds, with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission having recently issued notices to hundreds of individuals or entities believed to have received hundreds of millions of ringgit in public money looted from 1MDB. Names on the list include former top politicians such as ex-deputy finance minister Ahmad Maslan, and Shahrir Abdul Samad, who helmed a federal land development body. Najib Razak’s defence team wants Jho Low ‘produced as soon as possible’ to determine truth The Malaysian government is also seeking a US$3.3 billion payout from investment bank Goldman Sachs for its role in the saga. Seventeen current and former executives of the bank face criminal action for their alleged role in the scandal, but the bank maintains it committed no wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Najib’s ongoing corruption trial has thrown up major new details about the alleged “puppet master” role Low played, with the prosecution insisting that he and the embattled politician had worked hand in glove to siphon money out of 1MDB. The funds were allegedly used to purchase items such as artwork by the likes of Monet and Picasso, jewellery, and a US$250 million superyacht, Equanimity, which was seized by the Malaysian authorities in August.