Art Market

Prosecutors are seeking works by Monet and Warhol in connection with the 1MDB scandal.

Justin Kamp
Jul 2, 2020 4:06PM, via Financial Times

A construction worker stands near the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at a construction site on June 5, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images.

United States prosecutors are seeking works by Claude Monet and Andy Warhol as part of continued efforts to recoup the roughly $4.5 billion allegedly misappropriated from Malaysia’s 1MDB development fund—an international scandal that has brought the former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, finance firm Goldman Sachs, and actor and collector Leonardo DiCaprio into its ever-widening scope.

The Monet and Warhol pieces are part of a $96-million repatriation effort, which follows similar efforts conducted over the past four years, including a $700-million settlement last year which saw Jho Low, the Malaysian financier at the center of the scandal, turn over works by Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Diane Arbus to the U.S. Department of Justice. Low has continued to deny any wrongdoing in the matter, and specified that the forfeiture agreement with the Department of Justice did not constitute an admission of wrongdoing.

The scandal, and Low’s part in it, was brought to light in 2015 when investigative journalists broke the story that Low, along with high-level Malaysian officials, embezzled money from the 1MDB fund in order to buy yachts, private jets, and millions of dollars worth of art, while bankers at Goldman Sachs helped launder the money into shell companies and offshore accounts.

The Department of Justice has spent the intervening years attempting to recoup the plundered money by seizing assets connected to the case. The latest civil demand indicates the DOJ has to date traced $1.8 billion in assets, and of those traced assets has recovered $1.1 billion.

Clarification: This article has been updated to include information provided by representatives of Jho Low’s legal team.

Further Reading: How the World’s Biggest Financial Scandal Ensnared the Art World

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019