KUALA LUMPUR • US prosecutors and representatives of fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho want to sell a US$39 million (S$53 million) mansion in Los Angeles that he bought in 2012 with money allegedly stolen from the state-owned 1MDB investment fund.
The empty mansion above the trendy Sunset Strip is falling into further disrepair by the day and costing US$690,000 a year in taxes, insurance and maintenance, lawyers for the Justice Department and for Low's holding company said in a request to sell the property filed last Friday in federal court in Los Angeles. A sale was needed as "the expense of keeping the property is excessive and/or is disproportionate to its fair market value", they said in the filing in California.
Low looks forward to an amicable resolution of the sale, said an e-mailed statement made through his lawyers. Better known as Jho Low, he is the alleged mastermind behind a multi-billion dollar theft from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state investment fund. Prosecutors say the money was used to buy real estate in California and New York, a US$250 million yacht, works of art, a jet and millions of dollars worth of jewellery for his one-time girlfriend, actress Miranda Kerr.
Some of the assets that the United States has been trying to seize, including Low's stake in EMI Music Publishing, have been liquidated on court orders and the proceeds are being held pending the outcome of the forfeiture lawsuits.
That is the plan for the mansion too; the proceeds will replace the property as the defendant in the government's forfeiture case. The US authorities are preparing to return about US$200 million of recovered funds to Malaysia, said people familiar with the matter. Low, who has denied wrongdoing, is sought by the Malaysian and US authorities.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has reached out to countries from Switzerland to Singapore for help in tracking and recouping the US$4.5 billion believed to have been siphoned from 1MDB.
The scandal surrounding the state fund has ensnared people and institutions from Malaysia's former leader Najib Razak to Goldman Sachs Group.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS