US to Seize $1 Billion in Misappropriated Funds Connected to Malaysian Collector Jho Low

It's set to be one of the biggest asset seizures in American history.

Jho Low attends the 2014 Social Good Summit at New York's 92Y. Photo Taylor Hill/Getty Images.

In what is reportedly set to be one of the biggest asset seizures in American history, US federal prosecutors are said to be planning to take control of $1 billion in assets improperly taken from a Malaysian government investment fund. As much as $6 billion is said to have vanished from the fund.

The Wall Street Journal reports that civil lawsuits may be filed as soon as today in the case of funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB. The fund was established by Prime Minister Najib Razak with key assistance from Malaysian financier Jho Low, who paid a whopping $48.8 million for a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat at Christie’s New York in May 2013, an auction record for the artist at the time.

Low made headlines again this May when he initiated a selloff of his art collection, including the Basquiat and a canvas by Claude Monet, amid a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into his financial dealings. He sold the Basquiat for just $35 million, some 28 percent less than what he paid for it, according to a May article in the WSJ.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dustheads (1982).

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dustheads (1982). Courtesy Christie’s.

The Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, established in 2010, is leading the charge, says the WSJ, which indicates that the ill-gotten funds have been directed to real estate purchases in New York and Los Angeles as well as, ironically, the financing of The Wolf of Wall Street, a Martin Scorsese–directed film on financial corruption starring fellow-collector Leonardo DiCaprio.

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