US move to seize assets piles pressure on Malaysian PM

He said any claims relating to 1MDB must be "treated with caution" and "no one should rush to judgment before allegations are proven in court".

The Justice Department says the forfeiture demand is the largest single action it's taken under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which seeks to recover foreign bribery proceeds and embezzled funds.

Swiss authorities have seized three paintings by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh following a US request as part of a probe into the scandal surrounding Malaysian wealth fund 1MDB.

The targeted United States assets also include royalties from the 2013 financial crime caper The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Obama spoke generally with Najib on a visit to Malaysia previous year about the need for transparency and good governance, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.

The case of the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB announced on Wednesday is unusually large and involves some out-of-the-ordinary assets, such as rights associated with the dark comedy film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a corrupt NY stockbroker.

"However, this re-opens it from, certainly, across the Pacific, where the United States now will go forward to try and investigate how these assets were bought", Rahman said.

In May, the MAS withdrew the status of Swiss BSI Bank as a merchant bank for serious breaches of anti money laundering requirements.

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Najib has moved to suppress information, neuter Malaysian investigations, and oust officials questioning 1MDB's activities.

In the statement, the prime minister's office said it would "fully cooperate with any lawful investigation of Malaysian companies or citizens, in accordance with global protocols, as the prime minister has always maintained, if any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception", he added.

However, the USA complaints are by far the biggest threat to Najib's credibility - and hence stability - that could reinvigorate the opposition and ruling party members who are secretly opposed to him.

Malaysia's hyperactive social media users on Thursday hammered Najib as a thief and a liar, and #MalaysianOfficial1 became the country's top-trending Twitter hashtag.

In a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the 1MDB funds were used as a "personal bank account".

No criminal charges have been made against any individuals for misappropriation from 1MDB, Malaysia's Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi said in a statement. Aziz is the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who oversaw the 1MDB fund.

However, the case named Riza Aziz, the prime minister's step-son, as a "relevant individual" in the case.

But they refer to "Malaysian Official 1", described as a "high-ranking official" with control over 1MDB and who was the "ultimate beneficiary" of a Malaysian bank account full of allegedly misappropriated funds.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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