Jho Low's family move to protect NZ assets

Jho Low's family move to protect NZ assets
Malaysian Low Taek Jho.
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

AUCKLAND - A New Zealand court will tomorrow hear a case involving NZ$230 million (S$235 million) worth of assets allegedly linked to Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), including penthouses in Manhattan and a private jet, the New Zealand Herald reported yesterday.

The case involves the family of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, who, through several NZ trusts, wants to block the United States' Department of Justice (DOJ) from seizing those assets, the report said.

The US court filings had claimed that Mr Jho's relatives are beneficiaries of a number of these NZ trusts that own the assets believed to be linked to funds from 1MDB.

The move to bring the case to a NZ court came to light after a US federal judge in Los Angeles last month rejected a move by Mr Low's family members to claim the assets seized by the US government in the 1MDB probe.

Mr Low, widely known as Jho Low, was an adviser to 1MDB set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009.

Swiss investigators have said that about US$4 billion (S$5.6 billion) of 1MDB funds may have been misappropriated.

The DOJ said it is trying to recover some US$1 billion of these assets through civil lawsuits, by seizing them from three people, including Mr Low and Mr Najib's stepson Riza Aziz.

The third person named was a former government official from the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Low has denied any involvement with 1MDB except during the fund's early days.

In the New Zealand case, NZ Herald said that relatives of Mr Low, through their lawyers, wished to ask the NZ High Court to appoint someone who would be willing to stop the DoJ from seizing the assets.

The High Court in Auckland confirmed a defended hearing involving the parties was set for tomorrow morning.

The US filings say some current trustees were concerned that failing to oppose their replacement raised the possibility they might fall foul of US laws criminalising money-laundering, it said.

The filings claim a number of NZ trusts - with names as varied as Elephant Sun and Stars Tower - were the direct owners of assets.

The assets included a Bombardier private jet, a hotel in Beverly Hills and a US$55m Los Angeles mansion formerly owned by Fantasy Island actor Ricardo Montalban.

New York real estate owned by the NZ trusts includes two Manhattan apartments, including a US$43 million penthouse in the Time Warner Centre formerly owned by celebrity couple Beyonce and Jay-Z, NZ Herald said.

The NZ Herald said it found that the NZ trusts were set up by Auckland law firm Cone Marshall, which said it had no direct contact with the beneficiaries.


This article was first published on January 19, 2017.
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