(Dec 1): A bizarre scheme to pressure the US to go easy on Malaysians involved in one of the biggest financial scandals in years relied on an unlikely middleman -- a Justice Department employee.

In court papers Friday, the Justice Department laid out evidence showing how one of its own used shell companies to funnel US$74 million ($101 million) into the US at a time when no banks would handle deposits from the Malaysians involved. The official, George Higginbotham, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to lie to banks about the source and purpose of those funds.

Higginbotham, who left the department in August, admitted he worked with two unidentified co-conspirators in early 2017 to get the money into the country under false pretenses. According to court papers, that money was to pay for a lobbying effort that sought to influence an investigation into the looting of the Malaysian state investment fund. The same filing identifies the source of the money as Jho Low, who has been accused of money laundering and diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1DMB fund.

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