The 1MDB scandal continues to move into the recovery and accountability stage under the new Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad. The unbelievable scope of the corruption is beginning to come into focus as well. A recent report noted that in raiding the home of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the police not only found some $30 million in cash stuffed around the house but also more than 12,000 pieces of jewelry and 567 Hermès handbags. This is serious brand loyalty from the former Malaysian First Lady. Commercial Crime Division Chief Amar Singh appeared stunned at the scale of what had been recovered, and said at a press conference after the seizures, “It was just too huge.”
Another report focused on the somewhat less salacious details of frozen bank accounts. A special task force investigating the multibillion-dollar scandal said last week it had “frozen as many as 408 bank accounts, linked to 81 individuals and 55 companies, with funds totaling $273 million (1.1 billion ringgit).” It further noted those accounts “involved around 900 transactions made between March 2011 and September 2015.” U.S. authorities believe that “at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund between 2009 and 2015” and that $681 million was transferred into former Prime Minister Najib’s personal accounts.
For any company that did business in Malaysia with the Malaysian government or any of its state-owned enterprises now is the time to determine if your entity has any exposure to this scandal. It is not hard to believe that U.S. authorities are looking with a very critical eye at any monies that may have flowed to or from any such entities over the past 8 plus years. U.S. regulators have diligently pursued stolen 1MDB funds that were invested in the United States such as the cash used to fund the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.” With all eyes on funds coming in and out of Malaysia, it might be wise to check handbags and bank accounts.