Jho Low Forfeits More than $100 M. in Assets, Including Warhol and Monet Artworks

The United States Department of Justice has reached an agreement to recover more than $100 million in assets, including artworks by Andy Warhol and Claude Monet, linked to the scandal relating to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s sovereign investment development fund.

The federal department’s press statement said the agreement was with Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, along with members of his family and trust entities that he established. The agreement resolves two civil forfeiture cases.

These cases were brought against assets that Low and his family gained, allegedly by embezzling from 1MDB. The complaints, which spanned 2009 to 2015, alleged that more than $4.5 billion in funds belonging to 1MDB were misappropriated by senior officials at the organization and their associates, including Low. The misappropriation was allegedly done through international money laundering and bribery.

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The DOJ said in a statement that the Warhol and the Monet were collectively worth $35 million. He and his associates will now turn over $67 million in cash and real estate properties.

A document filed in the United States District Court in the Central District of California on June 24 identified the Warhol was Colored Campbell’s Soup Can (Emerald Green), 1965, and the Monet as Vétheuil au Soleil (1901).

1MDB was established by Malaysia’s government to promote economic development in the country through foreign direct investment and international partnerships.

Last August, the US government filed a forfeiture complaint alleging that former 1MDB lawyer “Jasmine” Loo Ai Swan purchased the Pablo Picasso pencil drawing Trois femmes nues et buste d’homme (1969) from Christie’s in May 2014 for $1.38 million. To do so, the government said, she used misappropriated funds from a bond sale underwritten by Goldman Sachs.

Low was once known for placing high-profile winning bids on artworks at auction. Those works included Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Dustheads (1982), which he bought at Christie’s New York in 2013 for a then record $43.5 million, and Monet’s Nymphéas (1906), which he won at Sotheby’s London in 2014 for the equivalent of $53.9 million.

Other cases the US government has filed linked to the 1MDB scandal involving art include van Gogh’s La Maison à Arles, the €25.3 million in proceeds from the sale of Nymphéas, the Picasso painting Nature morte au crâne de taureau, Basquiat’s Redman One and Self-Portrait, Warhol’s Round Jackie, Diane Arbus’s Boy with the Toy Hand Grenade, and the Monet painting Saint-Georges majeur.

A document filed by the US Justice Department on June 14 said that Low, his family members, and his entities waived their rights and consented to the forfeiture of van Gogh’s La Maison à Arles, Picasso’s Nature morte au crâne de taureau, Basquiat’s Redman One, Diane Arbus’s Boy with the Toy Hand Grenade, Monet’s Saint-Georges majeur, and the €25.3 million in proceeds from the sale of Nymphéas held in an escrow account at UBS, through a settlement agreement and consent judgment of forfeiture.

Update on June 27, 2024: Additional information from Justice Department court filing on June 14 added regarding waiving of rights and consent to forfeiture of five artworks and the proceeds of a Monet painting won at auction.

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