As of last week, Low Taek Jho, the now disgraced Malaysian financier and art collector better known as Jho Low, will be required to hand over $700 million worth of assets to the US Department of Justice. Low’s forfeit of assets is part of a settlement agreement reached by the US Department of Justice in relation to a kleptocracy scandal, which involves Low, stemming from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, or 1MDB.
If the settlement is approved by the courts, Low will hand over a number of artworks including works by Monet, van Gogh, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Diane Arbus, and Pablo Picasso. Van Gogh’s 1888 work La maison de Vincent à Arles is part of the works to be handed over which Low purchased for $5.5 million in 2013 at Christie’s. Monet’s Saint-Georges Majeur is another work involved that Low bought in 2015 for over $20 million. In addition to these, Basquiat’s Red Man One (1982), Arbus’ Child With Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park (1962), and Picasso’s Nature morte au crâne de taureau (estimated to be worth $3.2 million) were included in the settlement. The latter three works were handed over to authorities in 2017 by actor Leonardo DiCaprio after Low had gifted the works to him in previous years. According to Artnet News, these works and others were given to the FBI after Low gave them to DiCaprio as a belated birthday gift. The works were accompanied by a note that read ‘Dear Leonardo DiCaprio: Happy belated Birthday! This gift is for you.’ DiCaprio and Low became acquainted through Red Granite, the film production company that produced The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, which was founded by Malaysia’s former prime minister’s son and allegedly received funding from 1MDB.
Created as a fund to help generate development in Malaysia and attract foreign investors in the country, 1MDB is now embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit addressing claims that more than $4.5 billion have been siphoned from the fund. The scandal has consumed high-level authorities, like Low, and has entangled executives for Goldman Sachs and Najib Razak, Malaysia’s former prime minister.
‘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,’ said head of the US Justice Department’s Criminal Division Brian Benczkowski in a statement.
Low was most recently reported to be in China after leaving Hong Kong last summer even though he is listed as ‘red notice’ by Interpol. He still faces other criminal charges and is wanted in both the US and Malaysia. Low, however, retains that he is innocent of the charges and in a statement given by Low, claims that the recent settlement reached between him and US is not an admission of guilt. You can read Jho Low’s full statement here.
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