UK authority unable to block alleged 1MDB funds at law firm, court hears

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said they are facing difficulties in registering the local order in the UK. (NCA Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya told the High Court today that the relevant authority in the UK was unable to register the temporary order, issued in Malaysia, that will bar PetroSaudi International Ltd and its director Tarek Obaid from using some US$340 million in alleged 1MDB funds kept in a client’s account at a UK law firm.

Deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Izzat Fauzan said the government received this information from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) a few days ago.

“They (NCA) told us that they are facing difficulties in registering the local order to be enforced in their country,” he said, in urging trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali to set an early date to hear the government’s bid to obtain a restraining order that can be fully enforced in London.

He added, “should this be prolonged, we may be prejudiced because the money may dissipate”, in referring to the US$340 million kept in an account at UK law firm, Clyde & Co LLP.

Alex Tan, representing PetroSaudi International’s South American subsidiary, PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd, said it was the first time they heard about NCA’s difficulties.

“As far as we are concerned, we are complying with the local interim order here. And this is the first time I am hearing about it.

“I don’t see any non-compliance or any attempt made to transfer the money out. We just need time to take the client’s instruction to reply on some issues the prosecution raised in their affidavit,” he said.

Sept 15 has been set as the hearing date for the government’s application to obtain the restraining order under Section 53 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

“We will send an MLA request to the UK’s Crown Prosecutor, seeking their assistance to enforce our order,” Izzat said, referring to the mutual legal assistance treaties.

Nazlan had asked how the prosecution would enforce the order in London if the court ruled in their favour.

Besides the US$340 million, the government is also seeking to bar the use of money kept in a bank account under the name Temple Fiduciary Services Ltd, the amount of which has not been stated.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigating officer Mohd Afiq Abd Aziz affirmed an affidavit for the application of the prohibition order.

MACC had claimed the money was related to a conspiracy to defraud 1MDB involving Tarek, Low Taek Jho and former prime minister Najib Razak.