US prosecutors are seeking to sell a US$39-million Hollywood mansion purportedly bought by fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho with pilfered cash from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Low has been charged in Malaysia and the United States for his role in the alleged theft of US$4.5 billion from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
Low, also known as Jho Low, is on the run and denies the allegations through his legal representatives.
The US Department of Justice has filed civil forfeiture lawsuits on several assets, including the mansion near Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.
The empty Los Angeles home has fallen into disrepair, costing nearly US$690,000 in maintenance, insurance and taxes per year, the US authorities said.
A sale was required as “the expense of keeping the property is excessive and is disproportionate to its fair market value”, a California court filing said.
A spokesman for Low said the former financier looked “forward to the continued amicable resolution of these claims”.
A US$1.7 million set of diamond jewels, allegedly bought for Low’s mother, will be handed to the US government, according to another US court filing.
The pair of flawless diamond earrings and ring were being handed over by the “custodian”, which would not amount to an admission of “wrongdoing or liability”, the California court filing said.
The jewellery is believed to be in Thailand, where Low’s mother, Goh Gaik Ewe, lives.
Malaysia aimed to retrieve US$7 billion in total, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“I heard about this and I think [several countries] know it is our money, so they will give it back. Singapore will also give back our money. We are hoping to get back US$7 billion,” the 93-year-old said.
He has reportedly asked the US, Switzerland and Singapore for their help in recovering the estimated US$4.5 billion stolen from 1MDB.
US prosecutors say funds diverted from 1MDB were used by Low and others associated with the ill-fated fund to buy about US$1.7 billion in assets, including luxury homes, a huge yacht, a private jet, jewellery and several Picassos.
The US is reportedly due this month to return US$200 million recovered from 1MDB-linked seizures.
Former prime minister Najib Razak, who established the fund in 2009, is facing more than 40 criminal charges related to 1MDB and other government-backed operations. He denies the charges.
1MDB was not supposed to fund luxury Hollywood and diamond purchases. Picture credit: Wikimedia