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Malaysia 1MDB scandal

Chinese official denies alleged Malaysian 1MDB mastermind Jho Low fled Macau for mainland China

Statement contradicts earlier reports that fugitive financier, who faces Interpol warrant for his arrest, crossed the border from the casino hub

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 1:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 12:37am

A Chinese official on Wednesday night denied that a fugitive Malaysian businessman at the centre of a global corruption probe had fled from Macau to the mainland.

Sources earlier said that Low Taek Jho, 37, was on the mainland, having travelled from the former Portuguese enclave either by car or private jet. He earlier skipped Hong Kong for the world’s richest casino hub while facing an Interpol arrest warrant.

But the official, who was familiar with the case, denied that.

“He definitely is not in mainland China, any claim that he is hiding in the mainland is irresponsible,” the source said.

The playboy businessman – also known as Jho Low – 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.

Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said earlier on Wednesday that authorities in Kuala Lumpur had received an email from their Macau counterparts on July 9 telling them that Low had left the gaming hub.

“The email did not specify when Low left Macau. It is hard to trace him as he is believed to be using multiple passports,” he said.

A security source in Macau told the Post before the government official’s statement that it was “almost without doubt safe to say” Low was on the mainland.

Next month, newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is expected to visit China amid discussions between the two nations over major China-backed investments in his country.

In the latest development, The Straits Times newspaper in Singapore reported on Wednesday afternoon that authorities in the Lion City had issued a request as far back as April 2016 for assistance from Hong Kong in arresting Low, but the appeal had been rejected.

“Singapore’s request was declined,” a statement from the city state’s police force said.

Hong Kong authorities have yet to respond to the latest claims. The Department of Justice said it did not comment on individual cases.

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On Tuesday, the gaming hub’s Judiciary Police confirmed that Interpol Macau, a subdivision of Interpol Beijing, had received “the request of the relevant country (Malaysia)” regarding Low, whom the Post revealed several days ago had slipped out of Hong Kong with his family and was hiding out in Macau.

In a brief statement, the Judiciary Police told the Macau News Agency on Tuesday that they were “verifying the content of the request”.

The latest twist in the scandal follows weeks of claim and counterclaim over the fugitive financier, his role in the 1MDB scandal and an international hunt to track him down and secure his arrest.

It has also sparked a war of words between the Macau authorities and their Malaysian counterparts, who have accused officials in the casino town of making “deeply regrettable’’ public statements about their pursuit of Low, according to reports in the Malaysian media.

Over the weekend, the Post reported that Low had been living with his family and entourage in luxury apartments in Hong Kong’s upscale Pacific Place development.

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Local police are understood to not have acted on an outstanding Interpol red notice warrant out for Low. Under international rules, Hong Kong police are not obliged to execute a red notice warrant if they do not receive a direct request from the country seeking the subject of that notice.

On Monday, Malaysian politician Lim Kit Siang criticised former prime minister Najib Razak – who is facing trial at home on charges linked to the 1MDB scandal – for not sending out a notice for Low’s arrest while the suspect was in Hong Kong despite the Interpol warrant.

After the businessman left Hong Kong, Malaysia’s inspector-general of police said that Low – whose Malaysian passport has been cancelled but who also holds a passport from the tiny Caribbean island nation of St Kitts and Nevis – was in the casino hub, but police were unable to extract him due to the lack of an extradition agreement.

The 1MDB scandal saw financing for Malaysian economic development projects allegedly used for other purposes, most particularly for personal enrichment of the individuals involved.

It has prompted multiple investigations worldwide, including a wide-ranging Swiss probe into two former 1MDB officials and against persons unknown on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, as well as allegations of misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.