Singapore to return $11 million in 1MDB-linked funds to Malaysia

FILE PHOTO: Traffic passes a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A Singapore court ordered the return to Malaysia of about S$15.3 million ($11.1 million), just a small portion of total seized in the city state as part of a probe into transactions linked to scandal-hit state fund 1MDB, lawyers for the fund and the Malaysian government said on Monday.

Singapore is among at least six countries investigating claims that about $4.5 billion was siphoned off from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In 2016, Singapore authorities said they had seized S$240 million ($174 million) in cash and properties as a result of investigations into 1MDB-related fund flows through Singapore.

In May, Singapore and Malaysia agreed to cooperate on returning the funds to the Malaysian government, and the court order cleared the way for the first repatriation of funds from Singapore.

Tan, Rajah and Cheah, a Singapore-based law firm, said in a statement that the monies were recovered in various currencies from 1MDB and its former subsidiary, SRC International.

"The S$15.3 million recovered is the first phase of the ongoing efforts to recover funds that were unlawfully misappropriated from the 1MDB and/or SRC International Sdn Bhd Group of Companies," it said in a statement.

"Millions more are expected to be recovered in time," it added.

The funds will be transferred to a special 1MDB recovery account in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

"Efforts to recover other unlawfully misappropriated assets are ongoing," the firm said.

Malaysia's finance minister Lim Guan Eng thanked the Singapore court for its decision and said he hoped it would be "the beginning of more to come".

"After all, the sum of these monies is only a tip of the iceberg to be returned relating to 1MDB," Lim said in a statement.

Singapore has taken action against several banks and bank officials for violating money-laundering controls over transactions related to 1MDB, including the closure of units of BSI Bank and Falcon Bank.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku in SINGAPORE and Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)