PETALING JAYA: The United States Department of Justice’s move to put on hold civil forfeiture lawsuits against assets purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB is just a delaying tactic, say lawyers representing Jho Low and other parties involved.
On Aug 10, DoJ officials asked a judge in Los Angeles to put on hold civil forfeiture lawsuits because it was feared it would interfere with a criminal investigation into alleged money laundering involving the funds in question.
As a result, the parties involved in the DoJ’s suits have now urged the court to continue with the proceedings.
An FBI agent had warned in the court filing that information disclosed in the civil cases may reveal “potential targets and subjects of the investigation and the investigative techniques that have been and will be used in the investigation”.
“Now, the government’s effort to indefinitely stay all discovery – and almost everything else about this case too – exposes the reality that the government has no interest in exchanging information with the claimants, respecting claimants’ substantive and procedural rights, or moving this case forward at all towards a resolution.
“It is now apparent that the government was crying wolf about potential delays in discovery in order to bolster its efforts to win by default without presenting its case on merits,” read the 19-page document, according to Mkini.
The parties who stand to lose various assets in the DoJ’s civil suits argued that the US government had tried to keep the claimants from appearing in the case for many months in an attempt to secure forfeiture of the properties by default.
According to the report, the three sets of documents are dated Sept 18, but appeared in the California Central District Court’s electronic court system yesterday.
The three motions are for DoJ’s suit seeking the forfeiture of the Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills property, a separate suit for all business assets related to the property, and a third suit seeking the forfeiture of royalties owed by EMI Music Publishing Group North America Holdings Inc to JW Nile (BVI) Ltd, JCL Media Ltd, and/or Jwnwel Capital Ltd. All three were filed by the same group of lawyers.
Jynwel Capital is a Hong Kong-based company owned by Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, who is better known as Jho Low.
In its latest court filings in California, in June, the DoJ said it was seeking to seize US$540 million (RM2.3 billion) in assets including art works, jewellery, a yacht worth worth US$165 million, and film rights purchased with funds allegedly embezzled from 1MDB.
It followed the civil forfeiture suit by the DoJ in July last year, which sought to recover all the assets including but not limited to the Park Lane hotel in New York, a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, condominiums in New York, a private jet, expensive works of art, as well as the financing of Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
The total value of the assets sought by the DoJ stands at US$1.8 billion (RM7.7 billion).
In the court action yesterday, lawyers for the parties involved argued that the DoJ’s request is unconstitutional and “improperly broad”.
“The government’s overbroad and extraordinary request for a stay of indeterminate duration, during which time the defendant’s assets would remain in limbo, should be denied,” the lawyers said in the filings.
They wanted the DoJ to prove how the investigation process and other actions taken under the civil suit, would affect investigations or prosecution. The lawyers also wanted the stay on proceedings to be time-limited instead of indefinite as it is now.