U.S. Seals Deal to Recover $700M in Assets From 1MDB Fugitive

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Jho Low

Fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who stands accused of funding 'The Wolf of Wall Street' with stolen money, forfeited a luxury Beverly Hills boutique hotel as well as high-end real estate in London, New York and elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it has reached settlements with fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low for the recovery of more than $700 million in assets allegedly acquired through funds stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In a stunning twist to a tale of theft and deception that has reached from Malaysia to Hollywood, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday that assets recovered “include high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London; a luxury boutique hotel in Beverly Hills; and tens of millions of dollars in business investments that Low allegedly made with funds traceable to misappropriated 1MDB monies.”

The settlements involved a series of civil forfeiture cases and spanned money laundered through the U.S., Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg, according to a Department of Justice statement.

Assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski said Low had been part of a “brazen multi-year conspiracy.”

There was no word on the whereabouts of the 37-year-old Low, who has been missing since the 1MDB scandal first broke.

The DOJ statement noted that the settlements were not tied to criminal actions against Low, who stands accused of being the lynchpin in the theft of more than $4.5 billion out of the 1MDB.

But a statement attributed to Low was later issued to media via the Reevemark law firm, saying the missing businessman was “pleased” with the settlements.

“The agreement does not constitute an admission of guilt, liability or any form of wrongdoing by me or the asset owners. We believe all parties consider this resolution, which is subject to final court approval, to be a successful and satisfactory result,” Low’s statement read.

Malaysian prosecutors earlier this month produced a document they claimed revealed a $9 million advance to the producers of the Oscar-nominated The Wolf of Wall Street from a company owned by Low.

The Los Angeles-based outfit Red Granite Pictures was responsible for the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street, along with Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace and Alexandre Aja's Horns.

The company was founded by Riza Aziz, stepson of disgraced former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, whose case is also at the heart of the 1MDB scandal. Aziz founded Red Granite in 2010 alongside Joey McFarland.

Investigators in Malaysia and the U.S. claimed more than $4.5 billion was siphoned out of 1MDB by Low, members of the Malaysian government and their associates.

“[Low] 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 said via the statement. “This settlement agreement forces Low and his family to relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains that were intended to be used for the benefit of the Malaysian people, and it sends a signal that the United States will not be a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption.”

Wednesday’s settlements bring the amount the U.S. has recovered or assisted in recovering from the 1MDB scandal to more than $1 billion — the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the Justice Department, according to the statement.

The 1MDB was founded by the Malaysian government founded by former prime minister Najib Razakin in 2009 and was designed to initiate and promote global economic partnerships. 

Low faces separate criminal charges in the Eastern District of New York and the District of Columbia.

“This agreement that resolves the asset forfeiture actions does not release any entity or individual from filed or potential criminal charges,” Wednesday’s DOJ statement read.