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Jho Low fights to reclaim family mansion in Penang seized in 1MDB case

Says the purchase and construction of his family home predated the state fund

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Low says his family has lived in the property before 1MDB existed and that his mother, Goh Gaik Ewe, holds a certificate of occupation dated July 2000.

Kuala Lumpur

FUGITIVE financier Jho Low is fighting the seizure of his mother's mansion, saying his family has lived in the property since before 1MDB existed.

He said the purchase and construction of his family home in the Malaysian state of Penang predated the state fund as his mother, Goh Gaik Ewe, holds a certificate of occupation dated July 2000.

A spokesman for Low, through his US lawyers, provided the occupancy certificate.

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Malaysia is seeking to seize the mansion as part of a RM680 million (S$224 million) civil forfeiture action. The assets include handbags, cars and cash, which the government alleges were bought using funds siphoned from 1MDB, which was set up in 2009.

A local court said on Thursday that the government may invite anyone to submit claims of ownership on the list of seized items, according to Ragunath Kesavan, who represents Low's mother. The seizure of the family property was part of the government's "personal vendetta" against him that has risked his family's safety, Low said in an open letter on Thursday. The move shows that he would be unable to get a fair trial in Malaysia, he added.

He has been painted by US prosecutors as the mastermind behind the scandal surrounding 1MDB, which saw US$4.5 billion allegedly misappropriated from the fund, whose full name is 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Low, who remains at large, has also been accused of campaign-finance violations linked to former US President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election effort, on top of several money-laundering charges in Malaysia and the US linked to 1MDB. Low has denied any wrongdoing.

Low's assets have come under the spotlight as Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad seeks to recoup funds lost through 1MDB as part of an election promise. The government earned US$126 million in April by selling a super yacht once owned by Low. That was followed by the US returning US$139 million from the sale of a stake in New York's Park Lane Hotel, on which Low dropped his claims last year, as well as some US$57 million from a settlement paid by the Wolf of Wall Street movie producer.

Low's other assets remain tied up in legal proceedings. The US made an order on his US$35 million Bombardier Global 5000 jet parked in Singapore, after securing the return of US$1.7 million worth of diamond jewelry that he bought for his mother.

This week, his lawyers asked a US judge to let them take the first steps toward selling two luxury condominiums in Manhattan, which are part of US forfeiture lawsuits linked to 1MDB. Who will keep the proceeds remains unresolved as Low continues to fight the suits. BLOOMBERG