A Singapore court has ordered the return of millions of dollars misappropriated from Malaysian state fund 1MDB in a cross-border financial scandal that helped topple former leader Najib Razak.
Tan Rajah and Cheah, a Singapore-based law firm acting for 1MDB and the Malaysian government, said Monday the Singapore State Courts “have granted disposal orders” in respect to the money totalling US$11.1 million.
“These monies are being transferred to the special 1MDB recovery bank account in Kuala Lumpur. Efforts to recover other unlawfully misappropriated assets are ongoing,” it said in a statement.
Malaysia’s new government under Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 93, has launched investigations into allegations that Najib and his cronies looted billions of dollars from the fund while he was in office.
Last month, a yacht worth around a quarter of a billion dollars, allegedly bought by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho using money taken from 1MDB, was returned to Malaysia from Indonesia.
Mahathir said authorities are also seeking to repossess a US$35 million jet allegedly belonging to Low, a flamboyant international financier who is at the centre of the scandal, but whose whereabouts outside Malaysia remain unknown.
The Singapore police last month confirmed the jet is in the city-state.
Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng welcomed the Singapore court’s move. “I hope this is the beginning of more to come. After all, the sum of these monies is only a tip of the iceberg to be returned relating to 1MDB,” he said in a statement.
Singapore is one of several countries, including the US and Switzerland, which have launched their own probes into the scandal, with the city-state focusing its investigation on the use of its financial system to launder stolen 1MDB money.
Singapore authorities in 2016 said they had seized a total US$174 million in bank accounts and properties related to the 1MDB probe.
The city-state also closed the branches of two Swiss banks and jailed a Swiss banker and three Singaporean private bankers following its investigation.
The US Justice Department, which is seeking to recover assets allegedly bought with looted money, alleges that US$4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB.
The scandal contributed to the shock election defeat in May of Najib, who set up and oversaw the fund. Since his election defeat, the former leader has been arrested and charged over the scandal but is out on bail. He denies any wrongdoing.