NEW YORK: A former official at the US Justice Department on Friday (Nov 30) pleaded guilty to banking violations as part of an attempt to lobby against American authorities' pursuit of Malaysia's scandal-tarred 1MDB investment fund, the Justice Department announced.
George Higginbotham, 46, admitted to lying to US banks while transferring tens of millions of dollars to fund a lobbying campaign on behalf of Low Taek Jho - the 1MDB affair's alleged mastermind.
Federal prosecutors in August charged the fugitive financier Low, also known as Jho Low, with eight counts of money laundering. He is accused of helping orchestrate the theft of US$4.5 billion from the government-backed investment fund.
Higginbotham admitted to deceiving banks, including producing fake loan and consulting documents, to hide the true source of the funds, according to the Justice Department.
The true purpose of the funds was to finance a lobbying campaign to persuade US officials to resolve the civil and criminal cases brought in the 1MDB case - and to persuade American authorities to deport an unnamed foreign national from the United States back to his home country, according to the Justice Department.
Higginbotham, who until August had served as a liaison between the department and US lawmakers, was not involved in the 1MDB investigation and "failed to influence any aspect" of it, the department said in a statement.
The Justice Department separately announced Friday it was seeking to recover US$73 million held in American bank accounts that Higginbotham and Prakazrel "Pras" Michel opened last year on Low's behalf.