(Adds details on complaints, quote from acting assistant attorney general)
WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced the filing of complaints to recover about $540 million it says was stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the latest legal action tied to alleged money laundering at the sovereign wealth fund.
In the complaints, the department alleges more than $4.5 billion was taken from 1MDB by high-level fund officials and their associates.
"Today's complaints reveal another chapter of this multi-year, multi-billion-dollar fraud scheme, bringing the total identified stolen proceeds to $4.5 billion. This money financed the lavish lifestyles of the alleged co-conspirators at the expense and detriment of the Malaysian people," Kenneth Blanco, acting assistant attorney general, said in a statement.
The complaints allege that officials at 1MDB, their relatives and other associates allegedly laundered the funds using complex transactions and shell companies with bank accounts located in the United States and abroad.
That allowed the origin, source and ownership of the funds to be hidden and ultimately passed through U.S. financial institutions, with the money being used to buy and invest in assets in the United States and overseas, according to the complaints. (Reporting by Chris Sanders and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Paul Simao)