Malaysia's 1MDB scandal: US seeks seizure of fugitive Jho Low's Paris apartment, artworks

The US has filed dozens of such claims over four years to seize US$1.8 billion in assets from Jho Low.
The US has filed dozens of such claims over four years to seize US$1.8 billion in assets from Jho Low.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

LOS ANGELES (BLOOMBERG) - US prosecutors expanded their effort to seize assets that fugitive Low Taek Jho allegedly bought with money stolen from Malaysia's 1MDB state investment fund, including a Paris apartment and artworks by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Forfeiture lawsuits filed on Wednesday (July 1) in Los Angeles seek to recover US$96 million (S$134 million) in assets, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The US has filed dozens of such claims over four years to seize US$1.8 billion in assets from Low, also known by the name Jho Low, and alleged associates, including luxury homes in Beverly Hills, London and New York, a private airplane and a super yacht. So far, about US$1.1 billion has been collected.

Among the items targeted in the latest lawsuits is a US$6 million Warhol Campbell's Soup Can painting and a US$10 million work by Claude Monet. Prosecutors already took possession of a US$4 million Basquiat self-portrait and US$1 million Warhol's Round Jackie portrait that Low gifted to others, according to the complaint.

The US has sent about US$600 million back to Malaysia as part of its effort to seize and liquidate the assets. That includes real estate, business investments, art work and jewelry, that Low, his family and his cronies acquired with the money they are accused of stealing from 1MDB, short for 1Malaysia Development Berhad, after it was set up in 2009.

While Low has denied wrongdoing, he and his family last year dropped their defence of the forfeiture lawsuits that have been pending in federal court in Los Angeles, which has allowed the government to seize more than US$700 million in assets.

Some of the real estate, including luxury condominiums in New York and mansions in Beverly Hills, have been put on the market.