Malaysia said Thursday it would cooperate with the US Justice Department in lawsuits filed to recover assets of the beleaguered state development fund 1MDB.
US attorneys filed court papers in Los Angeles on Wednesday to seize assets amounting to 1 billion dollars that it said were misappropriated from 1MDB, which was established by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to boost the Malaysian economy.
Najib's spoksman said Thursday that if any wrongdoing is proven, "the law will be enforced without exception."
"The government will fully cooperate with any lawful investigation of Malaysian companies or citizens in accordance with international protocols," Tenku Sariffuddin said.
The planned seizure accounts for part of the 3.5 billion dollars allegedly misappropriated by senior officials of the fund and their associates.
"The Department of Justice will not allow the American financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
The Malaysian funds "were stolen, laundered through American financial institutions and used to enrich a few officials and their associates," Lynch said.
According to court documents cited in US media, the money was invested in luxury hotels, real estate, fine art, a private jet and the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
The documents allege that among those behind the misappropriation of the 1MDB fund was Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz.
Singapore authorities also said Thursday they were investigating 1MDB-related fund flows through that country for possible money laundering, securities fraud, cheating and other offences.
Bank accounts valued at 240 million Singapore dollars (177 million US dollars) belonging to various individuals have been seized, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said.
Malaysia's political leaders said the public should not rush to judgement over the latest developments.
"Any claims relating to 1MDB must be treated with caution, follow due legal process and adhere to the principle of innocent until proven guilty," Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said.
The electoral reform advocacy group Bersih renewed its call for Najib’s resignation.
"This lawsuit confirms the intricate web of money laundering and corruption linked to 1MDB," it said.
Prime Minister Najib's involvement with the fund has been a subject of investigation since the Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that 2.6 billion ringgit (673 million dollars) in the premier’s personal bank accounts came from 1MDB.
Malaysia's attorney general subsequently cleared Najib of any criminal liability over the money.