US seeks Monet, Warhol art linked to 1MDB scandal

The headquarters of the US Department of Justice in Washington, which is seeking to seize another US$96 million in assets allegedly linked to the 1MDB scandal. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The US is seeking to seize another US$96 million (RM411 million) in assets allegedly linked to the 1MDB corruption scandal, including Claude Monet and Andy Warhol paintings, officials said.

Billions of dollars were looted from 1MDB in a fraud allegedly involving former government leaders, and used to bankroll a worldwide spending spree.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said its latest legal action to recover 1MDB-linked items means it has now sought to claw back over US$1.8 billion in assets.

The latest items include artworks “Vetheuil Au Soleil” by French Impressionist master Monet and “Colored Campbell’s Soup Can (Emerald Green), 1965” by pop artist Warhol, according to court documents released by the DoJ.

They also include a drawing by American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as a high-end real estate in Paris, officials said Wednesday.

The move is “just the latest demonstration of (the DoJ’s) longstanding commitment to tracing, seizing, and forfeiting assets acquired through grand corruption,” said US Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski.

The US has so far returned or helped Malaysia recover more than US$1 billion in funds and assets lost in the scam.

More than US$4.5 billion originally meant to fund state investments was looted from 1MDB between 2009 and 2015, according to US investigators.

Businessman Low Taek Jho allegedly played a central role in the fraud and used much of the money to buy luxurious homes and art and invest in Hollywood movies.

In October, he struck a settlement with US officials to forfeit assets worth US$700 million including a Beverly Hills hotel and a private jet, as part of efforts to claw back stolen cash.

Former prime minister Najib Razak is now on trial over the scandal. He denies wrongdoing. Low also maintains his innocence, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

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