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US readies plan to seize assets of Malaysian state-fund 1MDB: WSJ

Signage for 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB) is displayed at the site of the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Goh Seng Chong | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. are set to put in motion plans to seize assets of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Authorities are expected to file civil lawsuits as soon as Wednesday morning to seize the assets, the Journal reported. The assets include real estate bought with money allegedly misappropriated from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, the newspaper reported.

The asset seizures would be the first action linked to 1MDB taken by the U.S. government. Representatives of 1MDB could not immediately be contacted.

What assets would be seized wasn't known, but the amount is expected to be potentially larger than a 2015 seizure of $850 million in an unrelated case, the WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The report noted, citing people familiar with the matter, that investigators believe that Najib's step-son, Riza Aziz, purchased at least $50 million of luxury property in New York and Los Angeles with funds originating from 1MDB.

In May, Red Granite Pictures, a film production company controlled by Riza and which produced the film the Wolf of Wall Street, told CNBC via email that "when the facts come out, it will be clear that neither Riza Aziz nor Red Granite has done anything wrong."

To read the full Wall Street Journal article, click here.

Questions about movement of funds from 1MDB came to widespread attention nearly a year ago, when the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2013 nearly $700 million had flowed from the debt-ridden fund to Najib's personal bank account.

Najib has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and, under pressure from the outcry caused by the WSJ report, said the funds were a private donation from a Middle Eastern country he declined to name. He has denied benefiting personally from the funds.

In January, Malaysia's Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali said that Saudi Arabia's royal family gave Najib a $681 million gift, of which Apandi said about $600 million was later returned.

Apandi said that no criminal offense had been committed. But globally, investigations into 1MDB in locales as varied as U.S., Switzerland, Singapore and the Seychelles have continued.

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