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Malaysia 1MDB scandal

Jho Low ‘not in China’ as searches for fugitive prove fruitless after Malaysian tip-offs

Kuala Lumpur continues to seek help to track down businessman accused in several countries over 1Malaysia Development Berhad financial scandal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 8:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2018, 10:28am

Beijing has investigated multiple recent tip-offs from Malaysia that its fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho was in China, but none turned out to be valid, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Low, 37, is accused of corruption, bribery and money-laundering by law enforcement agencies in several countries in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal.

The US Department of Justice has said an estimated US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates.

The tip-offs from Malaysia have led to a search of a hotel on the mainland, and the tracing of a phone number provided by Kuala Lumpur, said a senior official familiar with the case.

Despite China’s formidable surveillance system, Chinese police found no clue of the whereabouts of Low, popularly known as Jho Low, in a search of the hotel that lasted for over 10 days and included going through the guest list and video footage, according to the source.

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Beijing then received another tip-off from Kuala Lumpur: a phone number allegedly used by Low – which Chinese authorities found to actually belong to a peasant in north China.

“He definitely is not in mainland China; any claim that he is hiding in the mainland is irresponsible,” the source had told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

Another source briefed about the matter said Beijing had acted promptly on multiple requests from Malaysia to search for Low.

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“Usually these searches were based on specific tip-offs, and China has been prompt in dealing with each of them,” said the person, who requested anonymity to talk.

The first source said Hong Kong police, too, had received a tip-off from Kuala Lumpur that Low was thought to be meeting a friend or family member in a Hong Kong hotel at a specific time. A search by the city’s police concluded that no such meeting took place.

Low had lived in Hong Kong for at least five years when he was accused of having played a role in the 1MDB scandal. In an interview with the Post in 2015, Low denied the 1MDB allegations and said he would happily cooperate with Malaysian authorities.

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The same source added that Kuala Lumpur had made similar requests to other governments in the region, including in Thailand.

Hong Kong police this week rejected a request from Singapore, made in April 2016, for assistance in arresting Low, without providing further details, according to The Straits Times in Singapore.

Singapore also had an Interpol red notice – a request to locate and provisionally arrest, pending extradition, but not an international arrest warrant – issued against Low, claiming that he is suspected of money-laundering in the city state.

Malaysia’s inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun announced on Tuesday that a formal request had been filed to Macau police to help arrest Low. But Macau’s police issued a statement saying that the claim “is not in line with facts”.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not replied to inquiries by the South China Morning Post over the matter.