December 7, 2016 / 3:27 AM / in 10 months

Family of Malaysia's Jho Low moves to protect assets in 1MDB probe

FILE PHOTO -- A man walks past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Relatives of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho plan to take fresh court action in a bid to prevent the U.S. government from seizing assets as part of an investigation into the scandal-tainted 1MDB fund, according to a U.S. court filing.

Four relatives of Low Taek Jho will file court actions in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands this week to have real estate and other assets transferred to a new trustee, according to a motion on Monday in federal court in Los Angeles.

The motion seeks to push back a hearing, giving the relatives time to take their case to courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands, which the government had argued were the proper venues for their requests. The government is opposed to delaying the hearing from Dec. 12 to Jan. 23, the filing says.

The businessman, commonly referred to as Jho Low, is among the people named in civil lawsuits filed in July by the U.S. Department of Justice, which alleged that more than $3.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund.

The lawsuits seek to seize $1 billion in assets allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB and diverted into luxury real estate in New York, Beverly Hills and London, valuable paintings, and a private jet.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak established the fund in 2009 and chaired the advisory board until recently.

The move by Low’s relatives to try courts elsewhere came after the U.S. government opposed a previous attempt to replace their current trustee, which they say is unable to file a claim to transfer control of the assets.

In addition to Low, the Department of Justice has also named Riza Aziz in its lawsuits. Aziz is Najib’s stepson and founder of Red Granite Pictures, which produced the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

The lawsuits do not name Najib but say more than $700 million of misappropriated funds flowed into the accounts of “Malaysian Official 1”, who U.S. and Malaysian officials have identified as Najib.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said Malaysia will cooperate in the international investigations.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in NEW YORK and Praveen Menon in KUALA LUMPUR; Editing by Leslie Adler and Paul Tait

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