Jho Low family's move to claim assets rejected by U.S. court

(Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge rejected on Monday a move by family members of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho to claim assets seized by the U.S. government in its probe into the scandal-tainted 1MDB fund.

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

Dale Fischer, a judge in Los Angeles federal court, ruled against a motion by the family members to intervene and lay claim to real estate and other assets seized in a U.S. government lawsuit, a court filing shows.

Fischer also ruled against their motion for additional time to submit claims. The family members did not have direct control over the assets and were seeking to remove the Swiss trustees which control the assets and who have not filed their own claims, she said.

The family members’ objective was to replace the trustees “with people or entities who, for reasons undisclosed, movants believe will file claims. But movants have no standing to request an extension on behalf of companies they do not control,” Fischer said in a memo after Monday’s hearing.

The ruling marks the latest setback for the family members, which last week had a motion to delay the hearing denied, squashing plans to try courts in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands, seen as potentially more hospitable to their claims.

Low Taek Jho, 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 One Malaysia Development Berhad 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.

Singapore police have named Jho Low a “key person of interest” in a money laundering investigation linked to 1MDB, according to testimony last month in the trial of a former BSI SA banker charged with obstruction of justice.

Jho Low has not been available for comment through his Hong Kong private equity company and his whereabouts are unknown.

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

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

(Corrects “he” to “she” in third paragraph)

Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York.; Editing by Bill Tarrant.