Mubadala in talks to buy stake in hotel group from 1MDB-linked Low: FT

(Reuters) - UAE state fund Mubadala Development Co PJSC is in talks with the U.S. Department of Justice for approval to buy the rest of the partially-owned Viceroy Hotel Group from Jho Low, a financier linked by prosecutors to Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

Mubadala hoped to finalize a deal, that would need the DoJ’s approval, to buy 50 percent of Viceroy Hotel Group “within a matter of days,” the Financial Times reported, citing one person aware of the matter.

The Abu Dhabi fund already owns 50 percent of Viceroy, which has more than a dozen hotels across the world, while the remainder is owned by Low and affiliates that purchased rights to and interests in the hotel group with funds from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the newspaper said.

The Justice Department filed complaints on Thursday seeking to recover $540 million stolen from 1MDB, in the latest legal action tied to alleged money-laundering at the fund that brought the total claims by the DoJ to more than $1.7 billion.

The department alleged more than $4.5 billion belonging to the state wealth fund, set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009, was taken by high-level fund officials and their associates.

The proceeds of the sale, if agreed by Low, would be placed into an escrow account frozen by the Justice Department, the FT said.

U.S. authorities, in civil complaints, have accused Low of laundering more than $400 million stolen from the scandal-tainted Malaysian fund through an account in the United States. The Malaysian businessman has not been charged with any crime.

Viceroy declined to comment while the Justice Department, Mubadala, and Jho Low’s Hong Kong-based company Jynwel Capital did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment outside of regular working hours.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Steve Orlofsky