SingaporeIn his first interview after almost four years, Low Taek Jho, the Malaysian financier at the heart of the country’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal whose current whereabouts are unknown, told The Straits Times (ST) via email that he was a scapegoat in the scandal, and that other parties in the S$6 billion scam played greater roles.

Mr Low told ST, “The reality is that I am an easy target …given the fact that I am not a politician,” but that “when all is said and done, people will see me in a very different light to how I am portrayed now.”

In the interview that was published in ST’s online platform on Monday (Jan 6), the fugitive financier debunks 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.”

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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.”

When asked by ST on why he refused to answer the criminal charges he had been slapped with in his home country as well as in the United States, the financier reiterated his oft-repeated refrain that he would not receive a fair trial in Malaysia, citing the seizure of his family home as an example.

“The Malaysian government seized it under the false pretence that it was somehow related to 1MDB, and we had to get a court to force them to actually hand over the purported “evidence” they were relying upon for seizure. When the documents were finally released, it was revealed that the Malaysian government hadn’t even attempted to try to link the purchase of the home to 1MDB, because they simply can’t.”

Mr Low called the agreement he has with the US Department of Justice as a “hugely positive development,” pointing out that the settlement does not in any way constitute an admission of guilt or any form of wrongdoing on the part of Mr Low and his family, and added that he looks forward to the time when the “political climate in Malaysia is such that I feel safe enough to return home and the rule of law will be respected so that the facts can be presented, and I can vigorously defend myself.”

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As to his connections with such influential figures in the Middle East in relation to the 1MDB scandal, Mr Low called himself “an introducer and intermediary” whose ties paved the way for contracts that benefited the people of Malaysia.

Although he was asked, Mr Low could not comment on offers of asylum he has been given, due to “personal safety concerns.” But he did confirm having been offered asylum by one particular country which adheres to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights “on the basis of the political persecution to which I have been subjected and the continuing violation of my human rights.”

For the future, Mr Low says he looks forward to rebuilding his charitable initiatives, particularly to devoting “substantial effort to investing in cutting-edge cancer research,” saying that he had “multiple brushes with cancer” himself.

Mr Low wrote to ST, “I would cherish the opportunity to reinvigorate my philanthropic efforts and to give back to the community and help others in any way I can,” expressing the confidence that one day, “when all is said and done, people will see me in a very different light to how I am portrayed now.” -/TISG

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