Jho Low’s empty RM162m Los Angeles mansion to be sold

LOS ANGELES • US prosecutors and representatives of fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho (picture) want to sell a US$39 million (RM161.55 million) mansion in Los Angeles he bought in 2012 with money allegedly stolen from the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) investment fund.

The empty mansion above the trendy Sunset Strip is falling into further disrepair by the day and is costing US$690,000 a year in taxes, insurance and maintenance, lawyers for the Department of Justice (DoJ) and for Low’s holding company said in a request to sell the property filed last Friday in federal court in Los Angeles.

Low looks forward to an amicable resolution of the property sale, according to an emailed statement made through his lawyers.

Low, better known as Jho Low, is the alleged mastermind behind a multibillion-dollar theft from 1MDB. Prosecutors said the money was used to buy real estate in California and New York, a US$250 million yacht, works of art by Picasso and Monet, a private jet and millions of dollars worth of jewellery for his one-time girlfriend, actress Miranda Kerr.

Some of the assets that the US has been trying to seize, including Low’s stake in EMI Music Publishing, have been liquidated per court order and the proceeds are being held pending the outcome of the forfeiture lawsuits.

That’s the plan for the Los Angeles mansion too; the proceeds will replace the property as the defendant in the government’s forfeiture case.

Meanwhile, US authorities are preparing to return about US$200 million of funds allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB to Malaysia, according to people familiar with the matter.

The total includes about US$140 million from the sale of a stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel and some US$60 million from a settlement paid by the producer of the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie, said two of the people, who asked not to be named as the details are private.

The transfer could happen as soon as this week, they said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reached out to countries from Switzerland to Singapore for help in tracking and recouping the US$4.5 billion believed to have been siphoned from 1MDB.

The scandal surrounding the state fund, set up to finance development projects in the South-East Asian nation, has ensnared people and institutions from Malaysia’s former leader Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Singaporean authorities are preparing to return about S$35 million (RM106.56 million) surrendered by former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng and his family in connection with the 1MDB scandal to Malaysia, people familiar with the matter said separately.

A Singapore court order was granted on March 21 for the sum to be repatriated to its “rightful owner, 1MDB”, the city-state’s police said.

A US court has made an order on a plane that’s parked in Singapore, the city-state’s police said in response to a Bloomberg News query. “We are in discussions with the relevant foreign authorities on this,” the police said.

A US$35 million Bombardier Global 5000 jet which belonged to Jho Low, the fugitive financier who has been painted as the mastermind behind the scandal, is among several of his assets the US is trying to seize.

Malaysia pulled in US$126 million last month from the sale of a superyacht once owned by Low. That was the largest amount of money that the country has recovered related to 1MDB, after it received S$15.3 million from neighbouring Singapore last year.

Low has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. — Bloomberg