DoJ reaches settlement with Jho Low to recover over RM4.2b of assets

It also indicates to the public that the US is not a haven for pilfered funds


THE US Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday reached a settlement with fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low (picture), to recover over US$1 billion (RM4.18 billion) in assets associated with sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

It said in a statement that it was the largest recovery to date under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the largest ever concluded by the DoJ.

The recent settlement reached was the recovery of more than US$700 million worth of assets located in the US, the UK and Switzerland.

In the statement, the Justice Department’s criminal division assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski said as alleged in the complaints, Low and others — including officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates — engaged in a brazen multi-year conspiracy to launder money embezzled or otherwise misappropriated from 1MDB.

“He used those funds, among other things, to engage in extravagant spending sprees, acquiring one-of-kind artwork and luxury real estate, gambling freely at casinos and propping up his lavish lifestyle.”

Benczkowski also said the settlement agreement forces Low and his family to relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains intended to be used for Malaysians.

US Attorney Nicola T Hanna of the Central District of California said the settlement also indicates to the public that the US is not a haven for pilfered funds.

“Our strict anti-money laundering controls are effective, and we will seize assets used by criminals to conceal ill-gotten gains,” added Hanna.

DoJ added that according to civil forfeiture complaints from 2009 to 2015, over US$4.5 billion in funds belonging to 1MDB were allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of 1MDB and their associates, including Low through a criminal conspiracy involving international money laundering and bribery.

It said under the terms of the settlement, Low and his family members, and FFP, a Cayman Islands entity serving as the trustees overseeing the assets in these forfeiture actions, agreed to forfeit all assets subject to pending forfeiture complaints in which they have a potential interest.

The trustees are also required to cooperate and assist DoJ in the orderly transfer, management and disposition of the relevant assets.

“From the assets formerly managed by FFP, the US will release US$15 million to Low’s counsel to pay for legal fees and costs. Under the agreement, none of those fees may be returned to Low or his family members,” it said.

The assets that Low agreed to give up through the settlement include high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York, US and London, UK and a luxury boutique hotel in Beverly Hills, US.

In addition to that, other assets being forfeited subject to this settlement include a US$140 million in assets the US previously forfeited in connection with Low’s investment in a business entity related to the Park Lane Hotel in New York, as well as a super-yacht, valued at over

US$120 million, seized by authorities in Indonesia at DoJ’s request and recovered by Malaysian authorities directly from Indonesia.

“Following the conclusion of today’s settlement, several civil forfeiture complaints arising out of the 1MDB criminal conspiracy remain pending against assets associated with other alleged co-conspirators,” it added.

The 1MDB scandal has also led to former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak to be on trial for four counts of power abuse which had allegedly benefitted him RM2.3 billion and 21 counts of money laundering for the same amount.

Low, in a statement issued on his behalf, called the agreement “historic”.

“I am very pleased to confirm that a landmark comprehensive, global settlement has been reached with the US government,” he said.

Facing charges in both the US and Malaysia over his central role in the scandal, Low, who has consistently denied wrongdoing, said he does not expect to get a fair deal in Malaysia as long as PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is in power.