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Politics

US charges 1MDB financier Jho Low over Obama donations

Malaysian fugitive allegedly funneled money illegally in 2012 campaign

NEW YORK -- Low Taek Jho, the Malaysian financier accused of embezzling billions from his country's state fund 1MDB, has been charged with conspiracy to make illegal campaign contributions, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

The indictment alleged that Low, popularly known as Jho Low, transferred $21.6 million from shell companies to American rapper Prakazrel "Pras" Michel in 2012 "for the purpose of making illegal excessive, foreign, and conduit political contributions." Michel made about $2 million in campaign contributions through 20 straw donors and in his own name, according to the court filing.

While the complaint referred to the candidate Low allegedly donated to only as "Candidate A," Federal Election Commission records show that Michel made multiple contributions to the Obama reelection campaign. U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions to political candidates and prohibits U.S. citizens from making donations in the name of another.

Low is facing criminal charges in Malaysia and the United States stemming from accusations that he was the mastermind behind the embezzlement of $4.5 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a state fund founded in 2009 by then Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. 

Low was charged previously in the U.S., along with former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, for conspiring to launder billions of dollars of 1MDB money and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Ng has been extradited to the U.S. for trial in New York, which began on Monday. Low, who maintained his innocence, remains at large.

The U.S. government said this week that it has begun returning some $200 million in recovered assets to Malaysia.

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