NEW YORK • The US$150 million (S$212 million) in US properties tied to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's stepson Riza Aziz and family friend Jho Low include a penthouse at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan bought for US$30.55 million by a shell company connected to Mr Low's family trust.
Companies tied to Mr Low's family have also purchased a US$39 million mansion in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, the L'Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills and part of the Park Lane Hotel in New York.
Through shell companies, Mr Aziz bought a US$33.5 million condominium at the Park Laurel on 63rd Street in Manhattan, a home in Beverly Hills known as the pyramid house for a gold pyramid in its garden, as well as other properties in the Los Angeles area. The Park Laurel condo and the Beverly Hills home were owned by shell companies connected to Mr Low's family before being transferred to shell companies tied to Mr Aziz.
Shell companies - trusts, limited liability companies and other entities - are commonly used in real estate for privacy, wealth transfer or shared ownership. However, they also make it hard for the law enforcement authorities and others to discover the true owners of property.
In the case of the Beverly Hills home, it was transferred without any public filings, with Mr Low's family trust selling ownership of the shell company to a corporate entity controlled by Mr Aziz, The New York Times found. Mr Low's spokesman said this year that the transfers to Mr Aziz were done at fair market value and at arm's length.
New York City also appears to be home to at least one other person involved with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). A condo unit at 23 East 22nd Street was purchased for US$4.5 million last year by a shell company called Cricklewood One Madison LLC that listed Ai Swan Loo as its authorised signer, public records show.
In recent months, Malaysia's central bank said that a person named Jasmine Ai Swan Loo, a former executive linked to 1MDB, was wanted for assistance in its investigation.
A lawyer for Cricklewood declined to comment. Ms Loo did not respond to a note The New York Times left for her at the condo building, but the concierge confirmed that a Jasmine Ai Swan Loo lived there.
NEW YORK TIMES