PETALING JAYA: There is nothing for Putrajaya to rejoice about following the latest move in the United States to put on hold 1MDB-related civil suits, says Clare Rewcastle-Brown, the editor of whistleblower portal Sarawak Report.
She said Prime Minister Najib Razak in dismissing the civil suits was aware that it would eventually lead to a criminal case involving the troubled firm.
“It was just another of his very many misleading and mendacious claims, which has been pointed out countless times,” said Rewcastle-Brown in an email to FMT.
“The eventual purpose of the case was always going to be the criminal prosecution,” said the London-based journalist.
The DoJ yesterday asked a court in Los Angeles to put on hold its civil forfeiture lawsuits against assets acquired by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.
It said it would hamper a criminal investigation into the loss of billions of dollars from the Malaysian government-owned firm.
In court filings yesterday, an FBI agent warned that information disclosed in the DoJ’s civil cases could reveal “potential targets and subjects of the investigation and the investigative techniques that have been and will be used in the investigation”.
“Such disclosures could result in the destruction of evidence, flight of potential subjects and targets, or the identification and intimidation of potential witnesses,” the agent said.
Rewcastle-Brown said the civil suits were merely a way to stop those suspected to have embezzled 1MDB funds from disposing illegally-obtained assets.
“The point of the asset seizure was always to prevent the criminals from spending their loot once they realised they were under investigation and facing prosecution,” she added.
Rewcastle-Brown said what happens to the assets being targeted by DoJ, which includes luxury properties and art works, would now depend on the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
“If they can’t prove that, then the assets will eventually have to be returned,” she said.
In its civil suits, the DoJ alleged that from 2009 to 2015, more than US$4.5 billion belonging to 1MDB was embezzled by high-level officials of the firm and their associates.