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Sovereign Wealth Funds

1MDB’s Low allegedly funneled money to influence U.S. probe

A Malaysian financier accused of masterminding a scheme to siphon billions of dollars from a state wealth fund allegedly funneled money into the U.S. in an attempt to influence a Justice Department investigation, prosecutors said.

Jho Low had help in the opening of multiple accounts at U.S. financial institutions from a now-former Justice Department employee, who wasn't connected to the investigation of Mr. Low, the U.S. said. The employee, George Higginbotham, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to lie to banks about the source and purpose of funds. He is cooperating with prosecutors.

The U.S. claims a small coterie of Malaysians led by Mr. Low diverted money from 1Malaysia Development Bhd. into personal accounts disguised to look like legitimate businesses, and kicked back some of those funds to officials. Some of the money is alleged to have ended up with former Prime Minister Najib Razakand his family.

Mr. Low and two former Goldman Sachs Group (GS) bankers were charged with conspiracy earlier this month.

Details of the allegations are spelled out in a U.S. lawsuit filed Friday seeking to seize $74 million from Mr. Higginbotham's law firm and two other entities.

Mr. Higginbotham worked at the Justice Department in what the complaint said was a "non-lawyer position."

In the new filing, the U.S. said Mr. Low funneled cash through entertainer and businessman Pras Michel. Mr. Michel allegedly passed money on to a longtime political fundraiser, identified as Individual 2 in the court filing, and his associate, an investment firm owner identified as Individual 1.