Malaysia 1MDB scandal

Police tight-lipped over claims fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low fled to Macau from Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Macau authorities silent after police official in Kuala Lumpur tells media that Malaysian financier at centre of country’s 1MDB scandal was thought to be in hiding

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2018, 10:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 1:11pm

Authorities in Hong Kong and Macau were on Thursday night tight-lipped over claims that a fugitive businessman wanted in connection with a corruption scandal engulfing former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak had slipped the net and was hiding out in the casino hub.

A senior police official in Kuala Lumpur told the Malaysian media on Thursday that Low Taek Jho, who is wanted by law enforcement agencies in several jurisdictions over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, was in Macau having fled there from Hong Kong.

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Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the businessman – who is widely known as Jho Low – had apparently evaded police arrest before arriving in the city.

“The other day we sent our team to Hong Kong, but immediately when we arrived there, he left for Macau. That is the latest we know about him,” Harun said on Thursday.

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The claim comes a day after Malaysia’s immigration department chief, Mustafar Ali, said Low’s Malaysian passport had been invalidated. The fugitive businessman is understood to hold a second passport from St Kitts and Nevis, a tropical island off Puerto Rico.

In response to the claims, a spokesman for the Security Bureau in Macau said: “According to the law, the authorities do not reveal any information about the entrance or exit across the border of any individual.”

There is no extradition agreement between the former Portuguese enclave and Malaysia.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong police said they would not comment, as did the city’s Department of Justice.

There is an agreement in place between Hong Kong and Malaysia for the surrender of fugitive offenders.

A Macau security analyst, who requested anonymity, said: “Well, it is possible he is here, after all it wouldn’t be the first time this place has been thought of as a safe haven. But, as is the nature of these things, we will probably never know.”

Investigators believe Low played a pivotal role in setting up the 1MDB state fund from which US prosecutors say some US$4.5 billion was looted.

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In a civil suit launched by the Malaysian Department of Justice over the scandal, he was named as a “person of interest”.

In June, Singapore, one of six countries probing the case, said it had issued an arrest warrant for Low in April 2016, and six months later requested he be placed on the international “Red Notice” arrest list of the international police organisation Interpol.

On Wednesday Malaysia’s disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak was charged with criminal breach of trust and corruption in a case linked to a subsidiary of 1MDB.

After the scandal became public in 2015, officials under the Najib administration resisted public calls to call in Low for questioning, denying there was any wrongdoing at the fund in the first place.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who staged a stunning victory against Najib in the May 9 polls, has said getting to the bottom of the 1MDB saga is one of his top priorities.

Low, like Najib, denies any links to the financial scandal.

June 15 was also the date Mahathir rejected an offer by Low to meet in Dubai and assist in the investigations in return for immunity from prosecution over the 1MDB scandal.

Mohd Shukril, the new chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, said it and enforcement agencies from other countries were still hunting for Low.