Justice Department rovers $100 Million from Jho Low for funds allegedly taken from Malaysia Development Berhad 1MDB

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, members of his family, and trust entities Low established (collectively, the “Low Parties”) that resolves two civil forfeiture cases. The department previously brought the cases against assets that it alleges were acquired by Low and his family using funds allegedly embezzled from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s sovereign investment development fund. The Low Parties have also agreed to cooperate in the transfer to Malaysia of certain other assets located in Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Singapore that are linked to 1MDB funds. Under the agreement, the department will coordinate with foreign partners to facilitate the liquidation and return of these assets to Malaysia.  

According to the civil forfeiture complaints, from 2009 through 2015, more than $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. 1MDB was created by the government of Malaysia to promote economic development in Malaysia through global partnerships and foreign direct investment. Its funds were intended to be used to improve the well-being of the Malaysian people.

The agreement resolves the civil forfeiture action against a luxury apartment in Paris and artwork located in Switzerland by artists Andy Warhol and Claude Monet, which Low purchased for approximately $35 million in total. In addition, parties agreed to return to Malaysia real property and cash in bank accounts valued at approximately $67 million located in Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Singapore. The United States will release a total of $3.5 million to the trust entities to pay for legal fees and costs associated with the properties. Under the agreement, none of these fees may be returned to Low or his family members. 

Prior to this settlement, in total, the United States has returned or assisted in the return to Malaysia of over $1.4 billion in assets associated with the international money laundering, embezzlement, and bribery scheme.

Low separately faces charges in the Eastern District of New York for allegedly conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB and for conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by allegedly paying bribes to various Malaysian and Emirati officials, and in the District of Columbia for allegedly conspiring to make and conceal foreign and conduit campaign contributions during the United States presidential election in 2012. This agreement does not release any entity or individual from filed or potential criminal charges.

Jeffrey Newman is a whistleblower lawyer, whose firm represents whistleblowers in healthcare fraud cases under the False Claims Act (FCA) and also under the Securities and Exchange, FINCEN and CFTC whistleblower programs. He can be reached at Jeff@JeffNewmanLaw.com or at 617-823-3217