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UPDATE 1-Malaysia aims to recover about $5 bln in 1MDB-linked assets

Rozanna Latiff

(Adds details, background)

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (Reuters) - Malaysia is looking to recover about $5 billion worth of foreign assets linked to state fund 1MDB, set up in 2009 by then prime minister Najib Razak and the subject of money laundering probes, an anti-graft official said on Friday.

Malaysian and U.S. investigators believe about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) by high-level officials of the fund and associates between 2009 and 2014.

But many of the assets sought by investigators may have since increased in value, and include those linked to 1MDB's former subsidiary SRC International, Azam Baki, a deputy commissioner at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), told reporters.

"The amount is about $5 billion...in many countries, all related to 1MDB," said Azam, adding a separate taskforce will be set up to recover the assets.

At least six countries, including Singapore and Switzerland, are investigating alleged graft and money laundering at 1MDB. SRC is also the subject of graft and money-laundering probes in Malaysia.

Najib has been charged with 42 criminal offences related to losses at 1MDB and other state entities. He has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Investigators allege about $1 billion in 1MDB funds flowed into the bank accounts of Najib, who was ousted in a general election last year amid widespread public anger over the scandal.

On Friday, authorities filed civil forfeiture suits to seize 270 million ringgit ($65 million) disbursed from an account belonging to Najib, MACC's chief commissioner Latheefa Koya said.

The suits were filed on 41 people, companies and entities, most of them linked to Najib's party, the United Malays National Organisation, Latheefa said.

Malaysia has so far recovered about 990 million ringgit in 1MDB funds, including cash voluntarily returned by those under probe for receiving illegal proceeds, she added.

Since 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed forfeiture lawsuits on about $1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds, including a private jet, luxury real estate and jewellery.

Last month, the United States began returning to Malaysia some $200 million recovered from the sale of seized assets. ($1 = 4.1480 ringgit) (Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Stephen Coates)