SHAH ALAM – December 4, 2017: An attorney of the United States Supreme Court has noted that the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) probe against 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is now at a standstill.
According to Thomas Goldstein, both the DoJ’s civil and criminal investigations into the Malaysian sovereign fund have not yielded much so far.
“There is a parallel civil and criminal proceeding against 1MDB but none has produced anything significant. In fact, the DoJ has requested a stay on the civil investigation so as to pursue the criminal investigation.
“But they haven’t named any criminal defendants, charges and targets. As for the stay application, I believe the DoJ just wanted to prevent the assets that they think are linked to 1MDB from being spent or sold,” said the experienced appellate advocate at a lecture on US criminal litigation at Universiti Teknologi Mara here today.
Last July the DoJ filed a civil forfeiture complaint to recover assets it said had been stolen from 1MDB – which the latter has consistently denied – through a convoluted web of transactions involving several individuals and financial institutions.
A civil forfeiture complaint is a legal tool that allows law enforcement officials to seize properties that they deem to have been involved in criminal activities. Unlike criminal proceedings, the burden of proof falls onto the accused, who must then file an answer before 10 am in the court where the complaint was filed, on or before the first Monday after 20 days have passed.
Former US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch touted the case as one of the biggest asset recovery actions ever initiated in the country, amounting to more than USD$1 billion.
While stressing that the DoJ is not taking any legal action against any individual mentioned in the complaint, Goldstein said the complaint can, at times, become a prelude to a full-fledged criminal case.
“But the 1MDB-DoJ case isn’t an example of that. If a criminal case is to be developed from it, then it will be a classic criminal case.
“The DoJ will have to get an indictment from a grand jury and it will have to bring the criminal case to court and prove charges that are beyond reasonable doubt.
“While there is a parallel civil and criminal proceeding against 1MDB, the DoJ has yet to invoke any criminal processes in the US. No one has been identified as a criminal target, much less a senior government official,” he observed.