Malaysia fines 80 people, companies in 1MDB case: anti-graft chief

Above, documents pertaining to the trial of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over the 1MDB corruption allegations are brought to the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on August 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2019

Malaysia fines 80 people, companies in 1MDB case: anti-graft chief

  • 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was set up in 2009 by former Prime Minister Najib Razak
  • Najib, who lost a general election last year, faces dozens of graft and money laundering charges

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has fined 80 individuals and entities for allegedly receiving money from state fund 1MDB, the country’s anti-graft chief said on Monday.
Malaysian and US investigators say about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), set up in 2009 by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib, who lost a general election last year, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received about $1 billion in 1MDB funds. He has pleaded not guilty.
Latheefa Koya, the head of Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), told reporters the agency was aiming to recover 420 million ringgits ($100 million) from individuals and entities who had allegedly received funds laundered through accounts linked to Najib.
“We have issued compound notices against all of these people and entities for the purpose of them to pay up the fine,” Latheefa said, adding that they could be fined up to 2.5 times the amount received.
The individuals include Najib’s brother Nazir Razak, the former chairman of Malaysia’s second-largest bank, CIMB, and Shahrir Abdul Samad, former chairman of state palm oil agency Felda.
Funds were also distributed to companies, political parties and organizations linked to Najib’s coalition, a list provided by the MACC showed.
A spokeswoman for Nazir did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shahrir declined to comment.
In 2015, Nazir went on a leave of absence after the Wall Street Journal reported that he received around $7 million from Najib and disbursed the funds to other politicians before elections in 2013.
An independent review into the money transfer concluded that Nazir did not misuse his position and there was no inappropriate use of the CIMB’s resources, following which Nazir resumed his duties as chairman. He resigned last year after three decades at the bank.
Nazir had received about 25.7 million ringgits in cheques, Latheefa said. She declined to confirm whether these were the same funds that Nazir had allegedly received in 2013.
After winning last year’s election, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s administration has reopened 1MDB probes, charged dozens of high-ranked officials, and filed civil forfeiture actions in a bid to recover money linked to 1MDB.
Since 2016, the US 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 jewelry.
In May, the United States began returning to Malaysia some $200 million recovered from the sale of seized assets.


New emissions blow for VW as German court backs damages claims

Updated 26 May 2020

New emissions blow for VW as German court backs damages claims

  • Scandal has already cost firm more than €30 billion; ruling serves as template for about 60,000 cases

KARLSRUHE, Germany: Volkswagen must pay compensation to owners of vehicles with rigged diesel engines in Germany, a court ruled on Monday, dealing a fresh blow to the automaker almost 5 years after its emissions scandal erupted.

The ruling by Germany’s highest court for civil disputes, which will allow owners to return vehicles for a partial refund of the purchase price, serves as a template for about 60,000 lawsuits that are still pending with lower German courts.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to cheating in emissions tests on diesel engines, a scandal which has already cost it more than €30 billion ($33 billion) in regulatory fines and vehicle refits, mostly in the US.

US authorities banned the affected cars after the cheat software was discovered, triggering claims for compensation.

But in Europe vehicles remained on the roads, leading Volkswagen to argue compensation claims there were without merit. European authorities instead forced the company to update its engine control software and fined it for fraud and administrative lapses.

Volkswagen said on Monday it would work urgently with motorists on an agreement that would see them hold on to the vehicles for a one-off compensation payment.

It did not give an estimate of how much the ruling by the German federal court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), might cost it.

Volkswagen shares were 0.5 percent lower. The BGH’s presiding judge had signaled earlier this month he saw grounds for compensation.

Costs mount

“The verdict by the BGH draws a final line. It creates clarity on the BGH’s views on the underlying questions in the diesel proceedings for most of the 60,000 cases still pending,” Volkswagen said.

A lower court in the city of Koblenz had previously ruled the owner of a VW Sharan minivan had suffered pre-meditated damage, entitling him to reimbursement minus a discount for the mileage the motorist had already
benefited from.

The court at the time said he should be awarded €25,600 for the used-car purchase he made for €31,500 in 2014.

“We have in principle confirmed the verdict from the Koblenz upper regional court,” said BGH presiding federal judge Stephan Seiters.

Volkswagen had petitioned for the ruling to be quashed altogether by the higher court, while the plaintiff had appealed to have the deduction removed.

A Volkswagen spokesman said that outside Germany, more than 100,000 claims for damages were still pending, of which 90,000 cases were in Britain.

The carmaker also said it had paid out a total of €750 million to more than 200,000 separate claimants in Germany who had opted against individual claims and instead joined a class action lawsuit brought by a German consumer group.

The carmaker said last month it would set aside a total of 830 million for that deal.

In a separate court, Volkswagen agreed last week to pay €9 million to end proceedings against its chairman and chief executive, who were accused of withholding market-moving information before the emissions scandal came to light.