PETALING JAYA: In the latest turn of events surrounding 1MDB, a US paper claims a top Republican donor close to President Donald Trump was in negotiations for a US$75 million (RM295 million) fee if the Department of Justice (DoJ) dropped its investigation into the state fund.
Citing emails from Elliott Broidy and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said they had discussed setting up a consulting contract with businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low.
According to WSJ, the emails contained draft agreements between Rosenzweig’s law firm Colfax Law Office Inc and Low’s representatives, including a proposal for the US$75 million fee.
The exchange was said to have taken place in March last year, when Rosenzweig drew up the agreement and emailed it to Nickie Lum Davis, whose firm LNS Capital was acting as a consultant to Colfax on the deal with Low.
The draft stipulated that the payment would be made if the firm could help get the DoJ to drop its civil asset forfeiture suits within 180 days, WSJ said.
However, in a later email to Davis, Rosenzweig changed this to a flat fee, allegedly to ensure they complied with US law.
WSJ said by May, there appeared to be no final agreement on the matter as Low did not want to pay Rosenzweig directly.
Instead, he wanted to pay her through former hip-hop star Pras Michel, whom representatives of Rosenzweig’s law firm said had engaged Colfax “to provide strategic advice as part of a broader team to Low”.
Michel previously came under DoJ scrutiny for political donations amounting to US$1 million he had made following evidence that he received US$20 million from Low at around the same time.
WSJ said in November that investigators were looking into whether there was an agreement between Michel and Low to back efforts to re-elect former US president Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential campaign.
In its latest report, the paper said the emails it had viewed did not show whether Rosenzweig’s firm had finalised the terms of agreement with Low.
However, the correspondence appeared to include advice from Broidy on how Prime Minister Najib Razak should approach his visit to the White House, conducted in September that year.
WSJ said in an email from Broidy to a colleague titled “Malaysia Talking Points *Final*”, Najib had been advised to prioritise Malaysia’s support for US efforts to isolate North Korea.
The talking points also included the 1MDB affair, saying the US investigation “has caused unnecessary tension” and “could cause a negative reaction among Malaysians”.
The article noted that despite attempts to match the talking points and items outlined in the emails to Najib’s visit, they were unable to find any evidence showing that the talking points were ever used or even given to the Prime Minister.
None of the people involved responded to its request for comment.
A longtime Republican donor, Broidy had helped raise more than US$108 million for the Trump campaign’s joint fund with the Republican party in 2016.
Last June, the DoJ filed a forfeiture suit to seize US$540 million in assets. These assets included artworks, jewellery, a yacht worth US$165 million, and film rights purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.
In August, DoJ officials had asked a judge in Los Angeles to put on hold its civil forfeiture lawsuits, voicing concerns that it would interfere with a criminal investigation into alleged money laundering involving the funds in question.
On Wednesday, Indonesian officials seized Low’s luxury yacht when it was moored at Benoa Bay in the popular tourist destination.
Reuters quoted Agung Setya, the director of economic and special crimes at Indonesia’s criminal investigation bureau, as saying there had been 34 crew members on board the Equanimity at the time.
“Indonesian authorities had worked with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on the money laundering case,” Setya was quoted as saying.
However, he did not elaborate on how the investigation would proceed.