PETALING JAYA – Relatives of the controversial Jho Low, allegedly linked to the 1Malaysia Bhd (1MDB) scandal, have requested to oppose the seizure of assets worth US$230mil alleged by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) to be proceeds of crime.
This was exclusively reported by The New Zealand Herald yesterday. The High Court at Auckland is set to hear a request from relatives of Low and confirmed that a hearing involving the parties was set for tomorrow morning.
The news report said the filings claim a number of New Zealand trusts, with names as varied as Elephant Sun and Stars Tower, were the direct owners of assets including a Bombardier private jet, a hotel in Beverly Hills and a US$55mil Los Angeles mansion formerly owned by Fantasy Island actor Ricardo Montalban.
New York real estate owned by the New Zealand trusts include two Manhattan apartments, including a US$43mil penthouse in the Time Warner Centre formerly owned by celebrity couple Beyonce and Jay-Z.
The DoJ has claimed these assets are collectively worth more than US$230mil.
US court filings said the relatives are beneficiaries of a number of New Zealand trusts that are claimed to directly own a number of assets caught up in the probe of 1MDB.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in July when the DoJ first filed its seizure claims that US$5bil had been misappropriated from the Malaysian state with payments by 1MDB diverted into private Swiss bank accounts and then laundered into artwork, Hollywood films and real estate.
Low is one of three individuals named in the DoJ action as receiving the proceeds of the alleged fraud. Low and the others named in the proceedings have denied wrongdoing.
The DoJ action is civil in nature, but international media reports say criminal probes into the affair are ongoing in both the United States and Switzerland.
The New Zealand connection only came to light several weeks ago when relatives of Low complained in US courts that trustees were not challenging the seizure orders.
Filings from their lawyers said they wished to ask the New Zealand High Court to appoint someone who was willing take on the DoJ.
The US filings said some current trustees were concerned that failing to oppose their replacement raised the possibility they might fall foul of US laws criminalising money laundering.