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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Najib's stepson alleged to have used US$50m from 1MDB to buy properties in US

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz Najib was alleged to have used at least US$50 million (RM201 million) diverted from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to acquire luxury properties in New York and Los Angeles, according to documents sighted by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and people familiar with the matter.

WSJ reported today that Riza Aziz had used money originating from 1MDB to buy a 7,700-square-foot duplex in the Park Laurel condominium tower, overlooking New York’s Central Park. He bought the US$33.5 million property from Jho Low.

Riza Aziz also bought an 11,000-square-foot walled mansion in Beverly Hills, with a 120-foot-long pool, for more than US$17.5 million, WSJ reported. 

The Journal wrote that the financing of those purchases was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from 1MDB, according to people familiar with the probe.

Investigators believe money used to buy the two properties, was part of at least US$238 million transferred to Red Granite Capital, an offshore company wholly-owned by Aziz, from Aabar Investment PJS Ltd, which was registered at BVI (Aabar BVI).

Aabar BVI has a similar name with the subsidiary company of International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), a business partner of 1MDB. Investigators believe Aabar BVI played a central role in the alleged multibillion-dollar fraud.

The Journal previously reported Aziz’ film company received US$155 million in loans originating from 1MDB, much of which went into financing the 2013 movie The Wolf of Wall Street, it added.

Additional new documents viewed by the Journal show an additional payment of US$133 million went to Red Granite Capital, from Aabar BVI in June 2012, bringing the total sent from the company to US$238 million.

The new documents also show US$60 million of the total received by Red Granite Capital was sent on the same day that 1MDB Energy (Langat) Ltd, a 1MDB unit, sent roughly US$790 million to Aabar BVI.

Aziz, according to people who know him, lives in a rented apartment in Los Angeles; while the Beverly Hills mansion is being renovated. He has denied wrongdoing as has Najib, WSJ said.

“There has never been anything inappropriate about any of Red Granite Pictures or Riza Aziz’s business activities,” said a spokesman for Aziz’s film company. “What they have done and will continue to do is develop and produce successful and acclaimed movies that have generated more than US$825 million in worldwide box-office revenues.”

He said Red Granite “is responding to all inquiries and cooperating fully.”

1MDB also denies wrongdoing and says it is ready to cooperate with any investigation. It says it hasn’t been contacted by an investigative agency so far.

The focus by investigators on the properties in the United States (U.S.) comes after disclosures that more than US$1 billion originating from 1MDB was transferred into Najib’s private bank accounts. Some were used to pay for political spending in Malaysia, as well as for clothing and jewels, the Journal had earlier reported, citing people familiar with probes in two countries, bank-transfer information and other documents.

Najib had explained that the money he received was a legitimate donation from Saudi Arabia and that most of it was returned. Malaysia’s attorney general agreed that the money came from Saudi Arabia legally, and cleared Najib of wrongdoing.

The FBI is also investigating tens of millions of dollars of real-estate purchases by Jho Low, according to people familiar with the FBI’s probes.

The Journal had reported in April that Low, who was instrumental in setting up 1MDB in 2009, received hundreds of millions of dollars as part of a set of transactions involving a deal between 1MDB and IPIC.

Low bought the Park Laurel condominium and Beverly Hills mansion, which he later sold to Aziz, according to people familiar with the matter.

Low also purchased a penthouse at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, for US$31 million in 2011; and a glassy, modern house in the Bird Streets area of Los Angeles for nearly US$39 million in 2012. He still owns both, the people said.

A lawyer for Low didn’t respond to requests by WSJ for comment.

By Chen Shaua Fui /

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