Federal judge puts hold on the seizure of 1MDB assets

DOJ and Steve Witkoff put Park Lane Hotel up for sale earlier this year

Jho Low and the Park Lane (Credit: Getty Images)
Jho Low and the Park Lane (Credit: Getty Images)

The federal government will hold off on its attempt to seize assets allegedly bought with funds stolen from the 1MDB Malaysian state investment fund while the Department of Justice looks into possible criminal charges for those connected to the scheme.

A federal judge in Los Angeles granted the U.S. government’s request to delay its attempt to seize the assets, the Financial Times reported. The ruling came one day after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is tied to the probe but denied any wrongdoing, visited the White House.

The Department of Justice’s probe into alleged misappropriation of $4.5 billion from the fund has ensnared Steve Witkoff’s Park Lane Hotel. Politically connected Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who is said to have played a role in the alleged scam, invested in the Park Lane and a $30 million penthouse at the Time Warner Center.

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The Justice Department has filed claims against $1.7 billion in assets that were allegedly purchased with the stolen funds, and wants to return the proceeds to Malaysian taxpayers. Prosecutors are also looking into the possibility of filing criminal charges against those who laundered the money through the U.S. in order to acquire those assets.

The forfeiture cases are being put on hold in order to avoid releasing details that could tip off potential criminal defendants.

Earlier this year, the DOJ and Witkoff put the Park Lane up for sale. [FT]Rich Bockmann