Relatives of a Malaysian businessman, with ties to Hollywood and accused of money laundering, will launch a bid in a New Zealand court to protect his assets from being seized by the United States.
According to a filing in the federal court in Los Angeles, the relatives of Low Taek Jho – known as Jho Low – want to protect his assets from being seized as part of an investigation into the scandal-tainted 1MBD fund.
Four of his relatives plan to file papers in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands this week to have real estate and other assets transferred to a new trustee, according to the motion in the federal court in Los Angeles on Monday.
Low is among the people named in civil lawsuits filed in July by the US Department of Justice, which alleged that more than US$3.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund.
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.
The civil complaint, which does not accuse anyone of wrongdoing, tracks some mysterious dealings of Low and Jynwel Capital, the private investment fund he runs with his brother Szen, to a fund linked to the ongoing Malaysia scandal, according to the Financial Times.
It is alleged Low diverted the money from a state-owned development fund to spend on high-end Manhattan condos, Beverly Hills mansions, a private jet, and art. It was also allegedly used to pay for million-dollar gambling excursions and to back Hollywood film, The Wolf of Wall Street, which was produced by Red Granite – the film studio run by Riza Aziz, the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister.
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 move by Low’s relatives to try courts elsewhere came after the US government opposed a previous attempt to replace their current trustee, which they say is unable to file a claim to transfer control of the assets.