Malaysian businessman Jho Low says being made scapegoat for 1MDB failings

PETALING JAYA - Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, whose alleged role in the investments of debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has been the subject of much scrutiny, has defended himself, saying he has been made a scapegoat over the losses suffered by the state-owned investment agency.

The 33-year-old, commonly known as Jho Low, has been been accused of managing the investments of the firm, whose debt woes are weighing on the nation's credit rating.

Responding to the allegations hurled at him in recent months, he said he was never involved in 1MDB, aside from offering advice to Middle Eastern entities on the strategic investment company.

"I don't run 1MDB. I don't control 1MDB. I don't decide anything on 1MDB, but if any Middle East entity that I know wants to ask me for my view, I'll give them my view," he told Euromoney magazine in its April issue, according to a report in The Star.

"And, if they want to get involved with 1MDB, that's their prerogative," he added.

Mr Low had previously described as "spurious, irresponsible innuendoes and truly unsubstantiated" the allegations that he had cheated 1MDB of millions based on inferences drawn from an e-mail trail furnished by the whistle-blower website, Sarawak Report.

The website had alleged that Mr Low had benefited from irregularities in a complex financial deal in 2009 between 1MDB and the Saudi Arabian energy company PetroSaudi.

There have also been demands in the media and Parliament that the Government explain the company's investment decisions.

Mr Low, however, believes he has been made a scapegoat in the entire saga, accusing critics of blowing up a campaign centred around him.

"Did the people supposed to be responsible for decision-making (at 1MDB) suddenly decide to absolve all their responsibilities and then create this PR campaign with me as the focus of it," he told Euromoney.

He also reiterated that he had not invested in 1MDB bonds, as alleged by some quarters, and rubbished claims that he somehow controlled the company.

The Cabinet has ordered an audit of 1MDB, which is said to have built up a debt of nearly RM42bil (S$15 billion).

Mr Low also hit out at ruling party Umno, accusing some of its members of being "spin masters", the Malaysian Insider reported. "These Umno guys are spin masters, they know all this sort of nonsense. All these guys go round and round and round and I say: 'Guys, it's very simple, there's a board, who is the shareholder?'"