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US to return US$200m 1MDB-linked funds to Malaysia

Singapore

US authorities are preparing to return about US$200 million of funds allegedly misappropriated from troubled state fund 1MDB to Malaysia, according to people familiar with the matter.

The total includes about US$140 million from the sale of a stake in New York's Park Lane Hotel and some US$60 million from a settlement paid by the producer of the Wolf of Wall Street movie, said two of the people, who asked not to be named as the details are private. The transfer could happen as soon as next week, they said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has reached out to countries from Switzerland to Singapore for help in tracking and recouping the US$4.5 billion believed to have been siphoned from 1MDB. The scandal surrounding the state fund, set up to finance development projects in the nation, has ensnared people and institutions from Malaysia's former leader Najib Razak to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

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Representatives of the US Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Malaysia pulled in US$126 million last month from the sale of a superyacht once owned by Jho Low, the fugitive financier who has been painted as the mastermind behind the scandal. That was the largest amount of money that the country has recovered related to 1MDB, after it received S$15.3 million from Singapore last year. Low has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.

Singaporean authorities are preparing to return about S$35 million surrendered by former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his family in connection with the 1MDB scandal to Malaysia, people familiar with the matter said separately.

The US$140 million stake in the Park Lane hotel, which sits on Central Park South, was sold in February after Low agreed to drop his claims on the property. The US$60 million was paid by Red Granite Pictures Inc, co-founded by Najib's stepson Riza Aziz, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over claims that it financed Wolf of Wall Street with funds misappropriated from 1MDB.

This week, the Justice Department said a set of diamond jewellery worth US$1.7 million that Low gave to his mother, allegedly using money from 1MDB, will be returned to the US as part of a forfeiture lawsuit. BLOOMBERG