Malaysia handed back $156m in stolen 1MDB funds, US embassy says

US ambassador says returned assets can be used for original purpose of bettering the lives of everyday Malaysians.

Malaysia's 1MDB scandal ushered in the first change in government in six decades [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Malaysia has been handed back $156m in assets linked to the 1MDB scandal after an investigation by the United States, the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur has said.

US ambassador to Malaysia Edgard D Kagan said the funds were the fourth tranche of assets to be returned to the country following a probe by the US Department of Justice.

“This extraordinary sum of money is going back to the people of Malaysia where it belongs and where it can finally be used for its original intended purpose – to better the lives of everyday Malaysians,” Kagan said in a statement released by the embassy late on Thursday.

Kagan met with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday to confirm the latest tranche, which brings the total amount of returned funds to $1.4bn, the embassy said.

US officials estimate that more than $4.5bn was misappropriated from Malaysia’s state fund 1MDB by high-level officials and their associates.

The resulting scandal ushered in the first change in Malaysia’s government in six decades, spawned investigations in six countries, and led to the convictions of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and ex-Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng.

Malaysia earlier this year announced that it had recovered property and other assets worth 23.9m ringgit ($5m) from 1MDB, which was established by Najib to spur economic development.

Malaysia’s pardons board in February halved Najib’s 12-year prison sentence and reduced a fine imposed against him from 210 million ringgit ($44.5m) to 50 million ringgit ($10.6m).

Jho Low, a Malaysian financier who is the suspected mastermind of the scheme, was indicted in 2018 but remains at large.

Malaysian officials have said Low is in China, which Beijing has denied.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies