Federal officials are investigating whether a fugitive Malaysian financier laundered tens of millions of dollars and used the funds to pay a legal team that includes former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Marc Kasowitz, an attorney for President Trump, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The financier, Jho Low, allegedly played a central role in the embezzlement of $4.5 billion from a Malaysian fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd, according to U.S. court filings cited by the Journal. Low also is wanted by Malaysian authorities in connection with the scandal.
There is no indication anyone paid with the allegedly laundered funds knew the money was tainted, according to the newspaper.
The U.S. Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits in federal court in California seeking to recover assets from Low, including mansions, artwork and a yacht bought with the allegedly pilfered funds and is now pursuing a criminal investigation against Low, the newspaper said.
Citing "people familiar with the matter," the Journal says the Justice Department is investigating Low's potential use of two intermediaries to facilitate the payments using allegedly stolen funds through the international financial system.
Wary banks have sharply curtailed Low's access to the global financial system, making it hard for him to directly pay bills for such things as lifestyle expenses to legal and advisory services, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for Christie told the Journal that the former governor, who was a U.S. attorney before seeking elected office, is representing Low in the asset-forfeiture cases in California.
"There has been no communication by Governor Christie with any other area of government on Mr. Low's behalf," the spokesman said, adding there has been "no inquiry made to him by the Department of Justice with regard to any other investigation regarding funding or otherwise."
A spokesman for Kasowitz Benson Torres, Kasowitz's New York law firm, confirmed the firm represents Low, the Journal said.