May 2, 2019 / 7:13 AM / 2 months ago

Diamond jewellery linked to Malaysian fund scandal to be handed to U.S.

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A $1.7 million diamond jewellery set, allegedly bought for the mother of fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, will be handed over to the U.S. government, U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing.

Low, known as Jho Low, has been charged in Malaysia and the United States for his role in the suspected theft of about $4.5 billion from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, has consistently denied wrongdoing.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) filed civil forfeiture lawsuits on several assets said to have been bought with stolen 1MDB funds, including a pair of flawless diamond earrings and a matching ring.

On Wednesday, U.S. prosecutors said the diamonds would be handed over to the United States as part of an agreement reached with the custodian of the set.

The transfer “shall not be construed as an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of the current custodian or any other party”, the prosecutors said in a filing in a California court.

Prosecutors did not say who the set’s custodian was, but earlier filings said the jewellery was believed to be in Thailand where Low’s mother, Goh Gaik Ewe, lives.

The DoJ alleges that Low bought the diamonds as a gift for his mother, using funds diverted from bond proceeds raised by 1MDB in 2012.

Low’s spokesman said in a statement that his client was “pleased to learn that the United States Department of Justice and all the relevant parties are working to amicably resolve these matters”.

“We look forward to the continuing resolution of these issues,” the spokesman, Benjamin Haslem, said.

Authorities in at least six countries are investigating suspected money laundering and graft linked to 1MDB, set up in 2009 by the then Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak.

Najib, who lost power in a general election last year, is facing more than 40 criminal charges related to losses at 1MDB and other government entities.

He has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Robert Birsel

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