SINGAPORE (Mar 2): Low Taek Jho, a central figure in the global financial scandal surrounding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), has been something of an elusive character recently.

Last February, when a Bombardier Global 5000 private jet worth US$35 million ($46 million) belonging to Low was found parked at Seletar Airport and seized by local authorities, he was nowhere to be seen.

And, on Feb 28, when Low’s US$250 million luxury yacht the Equanimity was seized by Indonesian authorities in Bali, the chubby businessman known for his flamboyant lifestyle was again nowhere to be found.

See: Indonesia govt seizes Jho Low's US$260 mil superyacht in Bali

See also: Singapore seizes $50 mil private jet belonging to 1MDB mastermind Jho Low: report

A spokesman for Low was, however, on hand to criticise the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for still not having taken steps to prove that any impropriety had occurred. “It is therefore disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DOJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach — all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing,” the spokesman said in a statement, after news broke that the Equanimity had been seized.

The 300 ft vessel, awarded “Best in Show” at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2014, and the Bombardier jet are just two of the assets sought by the DOJ. On June 16 last year, the DOJ filed its third and latest lawsuit, to recover a total of US$1.7 billion worth of assets that were said to have been purchased with funds misappropriated from 1MDB. According to the DOJ, high-level 1MDB officials and associates have stolen a total of about US$4.5 billion.

See: How Jho Low allegedly spent the money from 1MDB

Among the other ill-gotten assets that have already been seized is US$8.1 million worth of jewellery that Low gifted to international model Miranda Kerr when they dated back in 2014. Low had given Kerr an 18-carat white-gold diamond jewellery set that comprised a necklace, a pair of earrings, a bracelet and a ring. As it happened, the US$1.98 million gift was handed over to Kerr during a multi-day excursion aboard the Equanimity.

See: Miranda Kerr surrenders US$8.1 mil of jewellery gift from Jho Low to US Justice Department

Low — widely known as Jho Low — had also showered gifts bought with 1MDB funds on another celebrity, Leonardo DiCaprio, the lead actor in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. The gifts included a lithograph poster created by German artist Heinz SchulzNeudamm worth US$1.2 million that was used in the 1927 silent film Metropolis; Nature Morte au Crane de Taureau, a painting by Pablo Picasso worth about US$3.28 million; a Diane Arbus photograph titled Boy with the Toy Hand Grenade worth US$750,000; and a US$9.19 million collage by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

DiCaprio has since had his representatives reach out to the DOJ to return any of the gifts that were linked to the misappropriated funds.

See: DiCaprio returns Brando Oscar as part of 1MDB money-laundering probe

Interestingly, the DOJ also wanted to seize proceeds from The Wolf of Wall Street movie, produced by Red Granite allegedly with funds stolen from 1MDB. Red Granite production house is co-owned by Riza Aziz, who is a friend of Low and the stepson to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Red Granite and the US government have reached a settlement in principle. The settlement is said to involve claims against Red Granite’s rights and interest in two other movies — Daddy’s Home and Dumb and Dumber To — as these were also allegedly funded with money from 1MDB.

See: The Wolf of Wall Street producer settles US suit linked to 1MDB

Low is also alleged to have bought a few gifts for himself with 1MDB funds. These include a Van Gogh masterpiece, the La Maison de Vincent à Arles worth US$5.48 million as well as two other Monet paintings. These have been seized by authorities in Switzerland.

In addition, through his company Jynwel Capital, Low allegedly diverted US$150 million from 1MDB’s 2012 bond issuance to acquire an interest in the Electrum Group, a private-equity firm in the US. The DOJ is still in the process of seizing Low’s interest in Electrum, which is cooperating with the authorities.

In Singapore, US$177 million of assets have been seized. These include two apartments at TwentyOne Angullia Park in Orchard Boulevard, which were purchased in 2013 for $54 million; a triplex penthouse worth $42.9 million; as well as bank accounts belonging to Low and his family members.

This article is in Issue 820 (Mar 5) of The Edge Singapore which is now on sale

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