No one knows for exactly how long fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low’s name will be in the air as he remains at large but recent developments suggest that the noose around him is tightening.
And with former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak all but placing the blame for the 1MDB sovereign wealth scandal, the chances of Mr Low emerging unscathed have grown increasingly dim, despite his numerous pleas of innocence.
This year has been particularly hard on the baby-faced businessman, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) points out with prosecutors from six separate areas renewing efforts to bring him to justice.
At the end of October of this year, Mr Low reached a settlement with the United States Department of Justice, where he turned over almost US$1 billion (S$ 1.35 billion) with no admission of guilt.
But this barely makes a dent on Mr Low’s legal problems, since arrest warrants for him have been issued in both Malaysia and Singapore. Mr Low’s parents face legal problems as well, what with his father facing legal charges for the 1MDB case and Malaysian authorities also wanting to know where his mother currently resides.
In the ongoing corruption trial of former Prime Minister Najib, Mr Low has been identified as the main culprit, and Mr Najib was been portrayed as the unwitting pawn in the fugitive financiers machinations. The former Prime Minister has testified in court that Mr Low had been an adviser to the Terengganu Investment Authority, which preceded 1MDB, even before the sovereign wealth fund 1MDB was established.
Mr Najib, who has been hard at work refurbishing his image, said in court earlier this month that Mr Low “portrayed himself as someone influential in the Middle East countries who I believed was able to facilitate investments and partnerships between them.”
He added, “These countries already had an excess of cash due to the increase in oil prices [at the time] … Because of that, I was of the opinion that the influence and relationships of Jho Low would indeed make meeting the goals and investments of 1MDB as they were intended to be.”
However, in 2015 the then-Prime Minister had gone on record saying Mr Low “never worked in 1MDB” and that “all decisions and transactions” were “made by the company’s management and board of directors”.
A different tune is being sung by Mr Najib’s defence team. His leading lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, told members of the media last week that the 1MDB scandal had been “devised by Jho Low together with four Arabs”.
He added, “And Jho Low is not being arrested despite our super IGP [inspector general of police] making promises. You remember the IGP making a promise three months ago that he will get Jho Low within two weeks? I don’t see the shadow of Jho Low.
If Jho Low turns up today in this court and he is arrested, my client’s defence is 100 per cent better.”
However, the fugitive businessman has still continued protesting that he is innocent. On his website he wrote after the deal had been struck with the US, “As I have maintained over the last several years, I am innocent. I will continue to fight the broad, sweeping, unproven, biased and politically motivated allegations against me, and I am confident that as facts come to light, the truth will be revealed. I only ask that everyone — courts, prosecutors, and the general public — keep an open mind until all of the facts are presented.” -/TISG