Kuala Lumpur—Fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho’s interview with The Straits Times (ST), his first in four years, did not go down well with everyone, which is perhaps unsurprising, as Mr Low portrayed himself as a mere ‘intermediary’ in the 1MDB scandal.
Malaysian business publication The Edge seemed particularly put off by the interview, first published by ST in its print edition on Sunday (Jan 5), followed by a digital version the following day.
On January 6, The Edge printed a critical commentary in response to the ST interview, wherein it posed “the obvious questions” that Singapore’s national broadsheet did not ask, including the following.
Why Jho Low, as he is more popularly known, gave up US$1 billion (approximately S$ 1.35 billion) of his assets to the US Department of Justice. The Edge wrote, “Who in his right mind would give this up if he is innocent? And didn’t you tell your favourite newspaper ST that in the US “the rule of law is respected and where people are considered innocent until proven guilty”? So, if you are innocent, why don’t you fight it out in a US court where you say justice can prevail?”
Secondly, if Mr Low’s wealth did not come from 1MDB, where did the US$1 billion worth of assets that he gave the US DOJ come from, and if he had inherited it as he claims, why is he so willing to give it up if he is indeed innocent?
Thirdly, since Mr Low claims to be but an intermediary for 1MDB transactions, who, then is the principal? Furthermore, The Edge wrote, “An intermediary to a crime is also a criminal, your lawyers should be able to tell you that. We assume your principal was Datuk Seri Najib Razak… Najib alleges that you were the principal…Are you accusing Najib of lying?”
The Edge then comes to the conclusion that both Mr Low and former Prime Minister Najib were “joint principals and were each other’s alter ego throughout the years the scheme to scam 1MDB was in play.”
Fourth, the Edge asked for Mr Low’s whereabouts. Like others, it believes that the fugitive financier is in China.
The commentary ends on a scathing note, both toward Mr Low and to ST. “Stop the nonsensical spin you are doing with help from your friends in The Singapore ST. No one believes it anyway. Come back to your country of birth to defend yourself. Don’t run and hide. Only cowards and the guilty do that.”
In the interview that was published in ST, the fugitive financier debunked the portrayal of himself as 1MDB’s “mastermind,” providing the rationale that he has never held any decision-making role at 1MDB or SRC.
Instead, he claims that his assistance was asked for due to his connections with “influential foreign businessmen and decision-makers.”
Mr Low claims that the decision-making responsibilities for 1MDB had been on the shoulders of “management, board and shareholders” who in turn had been advised by “international bankers, lawyers and other independent professionals.”
Furthermore, he said he found the “inordinate amount” of media attention on him to be “astounding” in comparison to the scrutiny given to the “global financial and other institutions and advisers that actually organised and facilitated the fundraisings (sic) at issue.” -/TISG