Jho Low is ramping up his fight to get back assets like New York’s Park Lane Hotel and a Van Gogh artwork. Newly-installed trustees are striking a fiestier tone than previous steward, Swiss bank Rothschild.
The AWOL Malaysian businessman who U.S. officials allege is at the center of 1MDB’s billion-dollar corruption, Jho Low, is fighting to prevent luxury assets being seized by U.S. officials.
New Zealand-based trusts control assets including The Viceroy L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverley Hills, CA, a valuable EMI music catalogue, and New York’s Park Lane Hotel.
Rothschild Bank Booted
Low is fighting in Los Angeles court to keep those assets, exposing an unseemly side of the private banking and trustee industry that is usually kept out of sight.
The trustee of Low’s assets, Zurich-based Rothschild Private Bank, was removed last month in favor of a Cayman Islands outfit thought to be less pliant to the U.S.’ grab.
Overriding Fiduciary Duty
This belief was born out by court filings this week, according to legal news outlet «Law360» (behind paywall): Offshore companies run by the trusts told a federal judge that the new trustees would give a good fight.
«New trustees have been appointed who do not feel paralyzed and who intend to fulfill their overriding fiduciary duty to defend the defendant assets from forfeiture,» the companies said.
«Chilled» by U.S. Asset Grab
This is a not-so-subtle dig at Rothschild, which had apparently been caught in the crossfire between Low, 1MDB and U.S. investigators. The previous trustees «felt chilled by the government» and couldn’t decide whether fighting for the assets would be legal or not, it emerged in court. A spokesman for Rothschild in Zurich didn’t comment.
The companies have asked the court for more time to file asset claims, arguing that U.S. justice officials had effectively kept Rothschild from contesting the seizure by threatening the bank with money-laundering charges as well.