The US government wants a court to hand over millions of Palantir shares allegedly used in a money-laundering scheme

Business Insider
JUN. 17, 2017

The US government has filed a lawsuit asking to take ownership of 2.5 million shares of preferred Palantir stock that were allegedly caught up in Malaysia’s massive 1MDB scandal.

On Thursday, the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to nab a huge assortment of assets, including some of Palantir’s stock. The government says these items were bought with allegedly stolen money from Malaysia 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund (1MDB).

The 1MDB fund was set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to promote economic development. However, US authorities allege that between 2009 and 2014, billions of dollars were stolen from the fund by multiple people and then used to buy all sorts of things.

This money was allegedly used “to purchase luxury real estate in the United States and overseas, pay gambling expenses at Las Vegas casinos, acquire more than $200 million in artwork, purchase lavish gifts for family members and associates, invest in a major New York real estate development project, and fund the production of major Hollywood films,” the complaint says.

On Thursday, the Justice Department released a list of specific items it is asking the court to turn over to the government. This includes 2.5 million shares of Palantir, originally purchased for $2 million, according to the court filings. The stock was part of Palantir’s $90 million series D venture capital investment back in June 2010, and was purchased at 80 cents a share, the documents said.

Palantir is a high-profile Valley startup valued at more than $20 billion. It makes software used by companies and governments to sift through massive amounts of data. It was cofounded by billionaire tech VC Peter Thiel and others and is still a private company, meaning the stock isn’t openly available for anyone to buy.

Palantir is not being accused of any wrongdoing in this suit and it’s not the only stock named. The US government also alleges that, through the creation of shell companies, the money was invested in various private equity funds as well as used to buy stock in indoor cycling company Flywheel Studios.

But most of the assets the government is seeking to nab in this lawsuit sounds like the catalog of a billionaire’s life:

*A yacht
*Interests in a hotel chain
*Movie rights (including interests in “Dumb and Dumber,” “Daddy’s Home,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” )
*A poster created by the German artist Heinz Schulz-Neudamm for the 1927 silent film “Metropolis”
*Real estate apartments and mansions in New York, LA, and Beverly Hills
*Enormous diamonds
*A Picasso
*A Monet that was allegedly bought as a birthday present for “Wolf of Wall Street” star Leo DiCaprio.

If the court agrees that the property should be forfeited, including the Palantir stock, the government will own it, at least at first, says Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office, Central District of California

“We are seeking to forfeit the assets identified in the lawsuit (this is different from “seizing” property). The forfeiture lawsuits allege that the various assets were purchased with funds that had been laundered, and most of those funds originally were misappropriated from 1MDB. If the government prevails in the forfeiture lawsuits, the United States essentially becomes the owner of the property. We would then do whatever is appropriate and possible to return them to benefit the people who were harmed in the first place.”

Palantir did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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