Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Jho Low's family moves to protect assets in 1MDB probe

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Relatives of businessman Low Taek Jho are seeking fresh court action in a bid to prevent the US government from seizing assets as part of an investigation into the scandal-tainted 1MDB fund, according to a US court filing.

According to Reuters, four of Low's relatives are planning to file court actions in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands this week to have real estate and other assets transferred to a new trustee, according to a motion on Monday in a federal court in Los Angeles.

The motion seeks to push back a hearing, giving the relatives time to take their case to courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands, which the government had argued were the proper venues for their requests. The government is opposed to delaying the hearing from Dec 12 to Jan 23, the filing says.

The businessman, commonly referred to as Jho Low, is among the people named in civil lawsuits filed earlier this year by the US Department of Justice, which alleged that more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund.

According to Reuters, the lawsuits seek to seize US$1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and diverted into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, valuable paintings, and a private jet.

This is after the US government opposed a previous attempt to replace the family's current trustee, which they say is unable to file a claim to transfer control of the assets, the newswire reported.

In addition to Low, the Department of Justice has also named Riza Aziz in its lawsuits.
Aziz is Najib's stepson and founder of Red Granite Pictures, which produced the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.

According to Bloomberg, the four relatives of Low include his father and brother.

The US will oppose the Low family’s request to delay a Dec 12 hearing over whether they can intervene in the forfeiture case, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for US attorney Eileen Decker in Los Angeles.

Hakkasan CEO also fighting case

Among others, the Justice Department claim that 1MDB funds were used to acquire a US$51 million New York penthouse condominium and a US$31 million Beverly Hills mansion bought in 2014 by Khadem al Qubaisi.

Khadem is the the former managing director of Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and former chairperspm of restaurant and nightclub operator Hakkasan Group.
According to Bloomberg, Hakkasan CEO Neil Moffitt is also fighting the US claims that a US$15-million chunk of Beverly Hills real estate he owns was also bought by Khadem with misappropriated Malaysian funds.
"Mr Moffitt had no involvement in the property at issue in the federal case other than as owner," his lawyer, Ronald Richards, said.

"I expect the forfeiture complaint to be dismissed as the government was unaware of his purchase at the time they filed the forfeiture complaint.

"He has never been a target or subject of any federal investigation or civil forfeiture action at any time."

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