Lawyers recommend out-of-court settlement for 41 who received ‘1MDB money’

Forty-one individuals and entities including Umno divisions and branches are said to have received 1MDB money from former prime minister Najib Razak’s account. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers say the 41 individuals and entities who were slapped with suits to recover RM270 million said to have come from state investment fund 1MDB could negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the government.

SN Nair said they could pay an agreed amount to avoid a protracted legal battle.

“They are already crippled as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has frozen their bank accounts.

“A voluntary negotiation is preferable and will also save legal costs and the court’s time,” he told FMT.

MACC announced last week that it had filed forfeiture suits against the 41 to recover money said to have been transferred from the account of former prime minister Najib Razak.

MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya said the civil action was filed under Section 56 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (Amla).

She said the biggest recipients of the money were Umno divisions and branches which received RM212 million.

Nair said media reports showed that some recipients had indicated their willingness to cooperate with MACC and to find an amicable solution.

“That is a good sign that the defendants are being pragmatic about bringing their predicament to a win-win close,” he said.

Lawyer A Srimurugan said the 41 defendants should settle the matter as the government’s burden of proving money laundering in a civil case is lower than that in cases of criminal prosecution.

“The government only needs to prove its case on a balance of probability in a civil case, compared to the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ test in a criminal case,” he told FMT.

He added that nothing would stop the attorney-general from filing charges of money laundering against those who received the money from Najib.

“Unlike civil cases, there is no time limit for filing charges of money laundering,” he said.

He said charges are framed under Section 4 (1)(b) of Amla, and that anyone found guilty could be jailed for a maximum of 15 years and fined five times the amount or RM5 million.

Lawyer R Kengadharan said the government also stands to benefit if a settlement can be reached. This includes the defendants returning the money in cash.

“The recovery of money could be a tedious process even if rulings are made in favour of the government,” he said.

“Next comes the enforcement of judgments as it may have to file bankruptcy proceedings against the individuals, go after the estate of deceased persons who received the funds, and liquidate immovable properties,” he added.