Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Development Company, which currently owns 50 percent of Viceroy Hotel Group, is reportedly angling to acquire the remaining half and is currently in discussion with the U.S. Justice Department for approval.
Mubadala Development is seeking to acquire the 50-percent stake from Jho Low, who the Financial Times describes as a "a businessman linked by U.S. prosecutors to Malaysia’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption scandal." Global investigators believe more than $1 billion entered Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank accounts, much of it from state investment fund 1MDB. The investigation even stretches to Leonardo DiCaprio.
With the Justice Department's approval, Abu Dhabi's Mubadala is looking to complete the deal "within a matter of days," sources close to the deal are saying. If Low agrees to the transaction, the proceeds of the sale will be placed into an escrow account frozen by the DOJ.
However, the DOJ filed complaints on Thursday to recover $540 million stolen from 1MDB. This is the latest legal action associated with alleged money-laundering at the fund. The DOJ's current total claims have now increased to over $1.7 billion. The department claimed that high-ranking fund officials and their associates took over $4.5 billion belonging to the state wealth fund, which Malaysian PM Najib Razak organized in 2009.
U.S. authorities have also made civil complaints accusing Low of laundering over $400 million stolen from the Malaysian fund through an account in the U.S. However, Low has not been charged with any crime.
Viceroy Hotel Group's portfolio currently numbers 13 hotels with seven more, according to its website, in some stage of planning.