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Thursday, June 15, 2017

‘Saudi Prince’ not mentioned in DOJ’s latest filing

There was no mention of the figure "Saudi Prince" in the US Department of Justice's (DOJ's) latest 1MDB civil forfeiture suit, compared to earlier filings that were made last year.
Instead, the Riyad Bank account’s owners are referred to as “Saudi Associate 1” and “Saudi Associate 2”, who are described as Saudi nationals who are associates and the tycoon Low Taek Jho and the Low’s associate Eric Tan Kim Loong.
The Saudi account was allegedly used to transfer funds that originated from a misappropriation of 1MDB funds to a certain 'Malaysian Official 1' - a high-ranking Malaysian government official said to be Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing.
The latest court filing was made on June 7, and sought the civil forfeiture of a London penthouse that Low supposedly acquired using funds misappropriated from 1MDB.
This followed a series of similar civil forfeiture suits filed in July last year, which sought to seize intellectual property rights to the movie 'The Wolf of Wall Street', an aircraft, paintings, and other properties that the DOJ alleges are proceeds of the supposed misappropriation.
In the DOJ’s court filings made on July 20, 2016, the Riyad Bank account’s holder was described as a Saudi prince who had co-founded PetroSaudi International together with its CEO.
Previous news reports point to Prince Turki Abdullah Abdel Aziz and the former banker Tarek Obaid as PetroSaudi’s co-founders. Tarek is now PetroSaudi’s CEO.
Identities unclear
The DOJ alleges that the bank account was used to transfer US$20 million to Malaysian Official 1’s AmBank account in 2011, and another US$681 million in March 2013.
It is unclear who Saudi Associates 1 and 2 are, and why the changes had been made, or whether one of the code names still refers to the Saudi prince.
Tan was previously reported to be Low’s alias, according to testimonies at a Singapore court.
Meanwhile, the DOJ’s latest court filing also mentions a different Claude Monet painting compared to the 2016 court filings.
Instead of seeking the forfeiture of a 130 × 200 centimetre oil-on-canvas painting titled “Nympheas avec Reflets de Hautes Herbes” (Waterlilies with Reflections of Tall Grass), the DOJ now seeks the proceeds from the sale of a 88.5 × 100 centimetre oil-on-canvas painting titled “Nympheas” (Waterlilies).
Both are part of a series of some 250 paintings featuring waterlilies by Monet.
The change followed a report by the Wall Street Journal last year where the Monaco-based art dealer David Nahmad reportedly claimed that the “Waterlilies with Reflections of Tall Grass” painting belonged to him, not Low, though he had attempted to sell it to Low.
According to the latest filing, the DOJ alleged that Low had purchased the “Waterlilies” painting for £33.8 million in 2014 using money traceable to 1MDB.
An unnamed Hong Kong art dealer then paid Euro 26.9 million into an escrow account in UBS Bank, Switzerland, to buy the painting from Low on July 15 last year, on behalf of an unnamed third party.
The art dealer later authorised the escrow to transfer the funds to Low’s bank account at Banque Federale de Commerce in Comoros, and the transaction was processed by the Moroccan Foreign Trade Bank.

“On July 22, 2016, Moroccan Foreign Trade Bank declined to process the transaction until certain compliance-related facts could be obtained from the escrow agent in Switzerland. When the escrow agent could not provide satisfactory answers to these questions, the sale proceeds were returned to the escrow account at UBS Bank,” DOJ alleges.
The DOJ is now seeking the forfeiture of the funds held at the escrow account, instead of the painting itself.
Attorney-general (AG) Mohamed Apandi Ali today responded to the DOJ’s suit saying there has been “no evidence from any investigation conducted by any law enforcement agencies in various jurisdictions that shows that money has been misappropriated from 1MDB”. -Mkini

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