'Wolf of Wall Street' Corruption Scandal: Artworks, Properties Seized in Asia, Europe

Claude Monet's "Nympheas avec Reflets de Hautes Herbes"
Courtesy of Sotheby's

Inspired by his famous lily pond and dated from 1914-17, this 130 x 200cm oil painting by the French impressionist was bought by Low in June 2014 from Sotheby's for £33.8 million (approximately $57.5 million). According to the DoJ the money came from an account in Singapore traceable to the 1MDB investment fund. The painting was seized by Swiss authorities at the request of the U.S. government on July 21.

Authories in Singapore and Switzerland sieze assets — including a $35 million Monet painting — connected to Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman at the center of a major Department of Justice filing.

A day after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a major complaint connected to the 1MDB Malaysian corruption scandal and more than $1 billion worth of asset forfeitures in the U.S., authorities around the world on Thursday jumped into action.

Singapore's attorney general announced that assets worth $176 million, or 240 million Singapore dollars, had been seized following investigations into 1MDB funds that had flowed through several banks in the country.

Half of the assets belong to Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman at the heart of the scandal who received a "special thanks" for his part in financing The Wolf of Wall Street, which the DOJ now alleges was funded via misappropriated 1MDB funds. Low has an association with Leonardo DiCaprio dating back several years and reportedly introduced the actor to Riza Aziz, the co-founder of the film's production house Red Granite Pictures and stepson of the Malaysian prime minister. 

In Singapore, Low owns two units in the up-market TwentyOne Angullia Park development, which he bought for $40 million (SG$54 million) in 2013, according to The Straits Times. One of the units is a 7,718 square-foot triplex penthouse, which cost $31.6 million (SG$42.9 million), making it one of the priciest properties sold in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities, acting on a U.S. request, used Thursday to seize three paintings cited in the DOJ complaints. A spokeswoman for the Federal Office of Justice told Reuters that the artworks seized were Van Gogh's "La maison de Vincent a Arles" and Monet's "Saint-Georges Majeur" and "Nympheas avec Reflets de Hautes Herbes."

"The operation is not over yet, so we will not comment at the moment on the location of the paintings," she added.

Van Gogh's sketch had been bought for $5.5 million at a Christie's auction in 2013, while Monet's "Saint-Georges Majeur" was acquired from an art dealer for $35 million later in the year. In 2014, Monet's "Nympheas" oil painting was bought from Sotheby's for an estimated $57.5 million.

Low is alleged to have purchased the works of art using shell companies and money traceable to 1MDB.