US DoJ seized over RM305m linked to Jho Low, funds used to influence 1MDB probe

A civil forfeiture claim filed with a US court has revealed over US$73 million (RM305.1 million) was seized by the Department of Justice (DoJ) from bank accounts linked to fugitive financier Jho Low. — Picture via Facebook
A civil forfeiture claim filed with a US court has revealed over US$73 million (RM305.1 million) was seized by the Department of Justice (DoJ) from bank accounts linked to fugitive financier Jho Low. — Picture via Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — A civil forfeiture claim filed with a US court has revealed over US$73 million (RM305.1 million) seized by the Department of Justice (DoJ) from bank accounts linked to fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

In the 23-page forfeiture affidavit document shared by Malaysiakini, the money is described as coming from various illegal activities including bank fraud and from making false statements to a financial institution.

The filings, which were made with the District of Columbia District Court, indicated four seizures from several accounts were made between January to July this year.

They included US$25 million (RM104.5 million) and US$11 million (RM45.9 million) from two Citibank accounts held in the name of Higginbotham Law PC, US$37.6 million (RM157.1 million) seized in March from an account at Morgan Stanley bank under the name Anicorn, and US$21,100 (RM88,196) seized in July from an account at Wells Fargo Bank under the name of Artemus Group.

The DOJ recently claimed Low had been assisted by several individuals in funnelling tens of millions of dollars into the US, which was to be used to lobby senior government officials and influence its investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) scandal and related civil forfeiture proceedings of Low’s assets, among others.

Earlier today, the department announced its 46-year-old former senior congressional affairs specialist George Higginbotham has since pleaded guilty in conspiring to deceive US banks about the source and purpose of tens of millions of dollars sent from overseas to finance a lobbying campaign on behalf of foreign interests. He had previously worked for the department between July 2016 to August this year.

The department alleged in the court documents that Low’s money had been funnelled through various US bank accounts which were set up and under the control of one Prakazrel ‘Pras’ Michel.

Described as an entertainer and businessperson, Michel was assisted by Higginbotham in opening multiple accounts at US financial institutions so that money funnelled into the US at Low’s direction could be maintained.

However, the true source and purpose of the funds were not disclosed to the banks and were actively concealed from them, as it is believed the money had to be disguised since US banks viewed anything to do with Low to be ‘toxic’ following the department’s probe.

It is further claimed that Michel and Higginbotham met Low in Macau last year where they discussed how to continue the funnelling process to pay for the lobbying campaign.

Higginbotham has since confessed to working on fake loans and consulting documents in order to deceive banks and other regulators about the true source and purpose of the money, as well as conspiring to make false statements to financial institutions in the US concerning the source and purpose of the funds.