Central district federal courthouse, located at 350 West 1st St., Los Angeles, California.
Central district federal courthouse, located at 350 West 1st St., Los Angeles, California. (Joe Barnet)

The family members of a Malaysian financier at the center of a $3.5 billion money-laundering case involving the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” have asked to intervene in hopes of asserting a claim over several high-priced hotels and condos in New York and California, a Bombardier jet and music royalties.

Jho Low

Four family members of Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, stated in court papers that the trustee of their family trust has refused to make a claim for fear of being criminally liable as part of the case, in which the U.S. Justice Department has sought forfeiture of more than a dozen assets allegedly paid for through a scheme run out of Malaysia, including hundreds of millions of dollars held in bank accounts by several prominent law firms.

At a hearing on Monday in Los Angeles, a lawyer for Jho’s family members asked U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer to give them another month to come up with a new trustee who would be willing to make the claim.

“There’s no funny business going on here,” said Robin Rathmell of Kobre & Kim in Washington, D.C. “The new trustee will be before this court.”

According to court filings, Jho’s family members have retained Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft “to oversee the appointment of a new trustee and to prepare the required trust deeds and documents” and are working with New York consulting firm AlixPartners on the restructuring. Cadwalader’s retention brings another Big Law firm into a case that so far has brought in Dechert; Boies, Schiller & Flexner; Debevoise & Plimpton; and Troutman Sanders.

In court, Rathmell said his clients were in the process of replacing the trustee through court proceedings in New Zealand and the Cayman Islands in which hearing dates are expected next month.

But federal prosecutors have countered that Jho’s family members have no standing to intervene in the case. In court, assistant U.S. attorney Christen Sproule, of the Central District of the California U.S. Attorney’s Office, questioned the motives behind the family’s decision to come up with a new trustee, which she called a “very, very unusual situation.”

She said the new trustee was “handpicked by the Jho family” and would have little knowledge of the documents at issue in the case.

Jho’s family members specifically seek to file claims over the Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft, the Viceroy L’Ermitage luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, the Park Lane Hotel in New York, condos in New York and a mansion in Los Angeles. Other assets in the case including proceeds from the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” over which several Hollywood guilds have made claims and paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Contact the reporter at abronstad@alm.com. On Twitter: @abronstadnlj