In a recent development, the United States government has initiated a civil suit with the aim of seizing an artwork by renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The artwork in question, a pencil-on-paper drawing titled “Trois Femmes Nues et Buste D’Homme,” was allegedly purchased by Malaysian individual Jasmine Loo using approximately US$1.3 million, which is claimed to have been misappropriated from the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
According to official documents filed by the US government on August 28 through a forfeiture complaint, the target of the lawsuit extends beyond the artwork. The government is seeking to forfeit not only Picasso’s drawing but also all the funds and assets held in an account at a Switzerland-based bank under the name of Loo’s company, Glen Vine Partners Limited. As of the current balance report, this bank account holds around US$432,203.01, equivalent to over RM2 million at the present exchange rate.
The crux of the US government’s argument revolves around the assertion that both the Picasso artwork and the funds in Glen Vine’s bank account were acquired in New York during 2014 using money that can be traced back to either unlawfully diverted 1MDB funds or funds directly tied to the Malaysian sovereign investment company.
The US government contends that these assets are subject to forfeiture due to their connection to violations of US laws, including offenses related to money laundering, misappropriation of public funds for the benefit of a public official, and the receiving of stolen money or fraudulently obtained property.
The US government’s case traces the alleged flow of funds from 1MDB subsidiary 1MDB Global Investments Limited (GIL), which issued a US$3 billion bond in March 2013. It is claimed that funds misappropriated from this bond sale were ultimately used by Loo to acquire the Picasso drawing in 2014. The money originating from the US$3 billion bond is said to have passed through several accounts before reaching Loo’s personal bank account.
One notable transaction highlighted in the court filing involves the transfer of US$6 million in July 2013 to the BSI Bank account in Singapore, which is associated with Springbrook Global Limited. The US government alleges that Loo is the beneficial owner of Springbrook, a company formed in the British Virgin Islands in March 2013.
Further examination of financial records reveals that on May 7, 2014, Loo allegedly transferred US$1.9 million from the Springbrook account to her personal account at BSI Bank in Singapore. Shortly thereafter, on May 13, 2014, Christie’s Auction House in New York issued an invoice to Loo for the Picasso drawing, with a total sales price of US$1,377,268.75.
On June 24, 2014, Loo is said to have completed her purchase of the artwork by transferring approximately US$1,377,293 from her personal account at BSI Bank in Singapore to an account at Christie’s. This transaction, as outlined in the court documents, forms a critical piece of the US government’s case against the Picasso artwork and associated assets.
The legal proceedings surrounding this Picasso artwork represent another chapter in the ongoing global efforts to recover misappropriated funds linked to the 1MDB scandal, which has drawn international attention and scrutiny in recent years.