Pictue: REUTERS/OLIVIA HARRIS
Pictue: REUTERS/OLIVIA HARRIS

Kuala Lumpur — Malaysia has recovered $322m stolen from the scandal-hit sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), officials said on Tuesday — a fraction of the more than $4.5bn US prosecutors say was looted.

Another $1.6bn plundered from 1MDB has been identified and steps are being taken to recover the money, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s office said.

Former top officials at the state fund and their cronies allegedly stole billions from 1MDB and used the money to buy items ranging from a super-yacht to artwork.

The huge fraud allegedly involved former prime minister Najib Razak and his inner circle. The allegations contributed to Najib’s shock 2018 election loss, and he has since been put on trial over the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who led a coalition that toppled Najib from power at the polls, had spearheaded efforts to recover the looted money. But Mahathir abruptly resigned last month after his coalition collapsed amid a power play.

This paved the way for Muhyiddin to become prime minister with the support of Najib’s United Malays National Organisation party, sparking concern that his trials and others linked to the 1MDB scandal could be affected.

Malaysia has not given an estimate at to how much money was stolen from 1MDB, but the US justice department, which is investigating the theft due to claims money was laundered through the American financial system, believes $4.5bn was siphoned off.

AFP