US seeks seizure of Pablo Picasso art bought by Jasmine Loo with 1MDB's US$1.3m; US$430,000 in her account

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — The US government has filed a civil suit in a bid to seize an artwork by famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, which it claimed was by Malaysian Jasmine Loo using US$1.3 million misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Based on a US court filing on August 28 via a forfeiture complaint, the US government wants to forfeit Pablo Picasso's pencil on paper drawing known as “Trois Femmes Nues et BusteD’Homme”, as well as all the funds and assets in a bank account in Switzerland held under the name of Loo's Glen Vine Partners Limited. The current balance of Glen Vine's bank account is approximately US$432,203.01 (over RM2 million at today's currency exchange rate).

From the court papers sighted by Malay Mail, the US government said both the Pablo Picasso artwork and the money in the Glen Vine bank account were bought in New York in 2014 with money either unlawfully diverted from 1MDB or which can be traced back to the Malaysian sovereign investment company’s funds.

The US government said this meant that these assets could be forfeited as they are properties that are related to violations of US laws, including offences relating to money laundering; misappropriation of public funds by or for the benefit of a public official; and the receiving of stolen money and international transportation or receiving of stolen or fraudulently obtained property.

The US government said 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Global Investments Limited (GIL) had taken on debts by issuing a US$3 billion bond in March 2013, and claimed that funds misappropriated from this 1MDB bond sale were used by Loo to buy the Pablo Picasso drawing.

According to the US government, money originating from the US$3 billion bond flowed from 1MDB GIL through several accounts before eventually reaching Loo's personal bank account.

The alleged money flows originating from 1MDB GIL included a US$6 million sent in July 2013 to the BSI Bank, Singapore account of Springbrook Global Limited, which the US government said is beneficially owned by Loo.

Springbrook was formed in the British Virgin Islands in March 2013 and its bank account was opened in April that same year.

According to the US court filing, Loo allegedly transferred US$1.9 million on May 7, 2014 from the Springbrook account to her personal account at BSI Bank in Singapore.

The US government said the Christie's Auction House in New York had on May 13, 2014 given Loo an invoice for the Pablo Picasso drawing, with total sales price including tax being US$1,377,268.75.

“On or about June 24, 2014, Loo transferred approximately US$1,377,293 from her personal account at BSI Bank in Singapore to an account at Christie’s to complete her purchase of the TROIS FEMMES NUES DRAWING,” the US government said in the court papers.

As for the Glen Vine account, the US government said Loo had set up the company Glen Vine Partners Limited in the British Virgin Islands in October 2014 with Loo being the company's sole beneficial owner, and that she had in November 2014 opened a bank account at Falcon Bank in Switzerland for Glen Vine Partners.

The US government claimed that Loo had on April 7, 2015 transferred US$1.25 million in misappropriated 1MDB funds ― traceable to Deutsche Bank loans borrowed by a 1MDB subsidiary ― into the Glen Vine account at Falcon Bank.

All the funds in the Glen Vine account at Falcon Bank are now in a new account at the Swiss bank which took over Falcon Bank, with the current balance being about US$432,203.01.

The US government's forfeiture claim was filed at the US district court for the central district of California, as the acts and omissions giving rise to the forfeiture took place in that district.

Loo was arrested by Malaysian police in early July after years outside the country to escape the law.

Her lawyers saying that her surrender was voluntary and that she would cooperate with 1MDB investigations and help Malaysia recover assets from 1MDB.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is currently on trial over RM2.28 billion of misappropriated 1MDB funds alleged to have entered his personal bank accounts from 2011 to 2014 and with hearing set to resume on September 18, with the prosecution saying this week that Loo could potentially be called as a prosecution witness in the trial.