Authorities in Asia and Europe moved Thursday against assets — including artworks and real estate — wanted by the U.S. in connection with its lawsuits against 1MDB, the Malaysian state fund linked to the producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Singapore’s Attorney General’s office said that a trio of Singaporean government bodies had Thursday seized $177 million (S$240 million) of assets in connection with the FBI lawsuits, which were filed in California a day earlier.
Half of the assets seized in Singapore belong to Jho Low, the flamboyant 33-year-old financier who is said to have advised Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and who has a special credit on “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Low is the owner of Good Star, a company which the FBI says was responsible for siphoning $1.03 billion of funds from 1MDB. The FBI alleges that Good Star laundered some $400 million of that money in the U.S., including as funding for Red Granite, the production company behind “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Red Granite says that, to its knowledge, none of the money it received “was in any way illegitimate.” For his part, Low has consistently denied any wrongdoing and has played down the extent of his connections with Razak.
In Singapore, Low’s assets include at least two upmarket apartments. One, bought in 2013, is a triplex that cost $31.5 million (S$42.9 million.) The assets were seized by Singapore’s Attorney General, the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
In Switzerland, authorities seized paintings by Monet and Van Gogh believed to be linked to stolen 1MDB funds, local media reported.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Office of Justice told the Reuters news agency Thursday said that the paintings seized were “La maison de Vincent à Arles” by Van Gogh and “Saint-Georges Majeur and Nympheas avec Reflets de Hautes Herbes” by Monet.
“The operation is not over yet so we will not comment at the moment on the location of the paintings,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.
In Malaysia, the FBI’s actions have sparked sharply differing reactions. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed called for Malaysians to take to the streets in protest. At a news conference, Mohammed also called for a referendum on whether Razak should stay in office.
Formerly a close friend of Razak, but now a sword political enemy, Mohammed has attempted for several years to use the slow-burning 1MDB scandal to unseat Razak. But Razak has successfully resisted and used many instruments of government to slow and downplay probes within the country.
Malaysian Attorney, General Mohamed Apandi said Thursday that no evidence has yet been presented by any agency anywhere in the world that shows funds to have been misappropriated from 1MDB. He said he had “strong concerns at the insinuations and allegations” made against Razak.
Razak is not specifically named in the FBI documents. The FBI refers only to “Malaysian Official 1,” identifying him as a high-ranking government official who oversaw the fund and is a relative of Red Granite’s Riza Aziz. (Aziz is Razak’s step son.)
Razak stuck to a strictly legal approach on Thursday. “This is a civil action not a criminal action. Those involved would have to go through the court process in the U.S.,” he told local reporters.