Criminal charges are looming for scandal-plagued Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who has been accused of stealing billions of dollars from a state development fund.
Prosecutors’ plans involve charges of wire fraud and money laundering against Low and others, according to the Wall Street Journal, characterizing the scheme to siphon money from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. as one of the largest-ever cases of financial fraud. In addition to criminal charges, the Department of Justice is looking to seize additional assets from Low, including his $165 million, 300-foot yacht, Equanimity, which is equipped with a helipad. It is also looking to seize a luxury apartment in Paris and a penthouse in London.
Separate from the criminal investigation, the DOJ filed civil lawsuits this past summer, seeking to seize more than $1 billion in assets, including art and luxury real estate in New York City — including a stake in the Park Lane Hotel — that allegedly was purchased with funds siphoned from 1MDB.
Singapore has been building a criminal case against Low as well, the Journal said.
Just before prosecutors filed lawsuits seeking to freeze his assets in July, Low tried to sell a Monet for 26.9 million Euros, the Journal said. A compliance officer at a bank involved in the deal — the Moroccan Foreign Trade Bank International — nixed the deal after the U.S. filed its lawsuits.
Low has denied the allegations, claiming he was a victim of political infighting and was only an informal adviser to 1MDB. He’s also fighting the asset seizure.
According to the Journal, the 35-year-old financier — now mainly living in China and Thailand — described 2016 as a “perfect storm” in a New Year’s message sent to friends via WeChat. But he remained confident that anyone who emerged from the storm would be stronger for it.
Last month, a federal judge complied with a petition by the DOJ and developer Steve Witkoff to oust Low from the Park Lane Hotel development, paving the way for Witkoff to sell the hotel. [WSJ] — E.B. Solomont