Graft busters freeze Umno bank accounts, raid Jho Low's apartment

A raiding team from the agency was spotted at a serviced apartment unit in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur belonging to Mr Low, who is better known as Jho Low.
A raiding team from the agency was spotted at a serviced apartment unit in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur belonging to Mr Low, who is better known as Jho Low.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Malaysia's graft busters have frozen several bank accounts of the country's largest political party Umno, said its vice-president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

News of the frozen accounts came as the media reported that a luxury apartment linked to financier Low Taek Jho, the alleged mastermind behind the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), has been raided by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Mr Zahid said he received a call from the MACC informing him that the bank accounts of the Umno headquarters and that of its Selangor branch have been frozen.

"It is almost certain that after this, MACC will freeze Johor Umno's account as well," he said in his speech at an Umno Hari Raya gathering in Johor yesterday, as reported by local news site The Star Online. He did not say why he thought these Umno accounts were frozen.

Mr Zahid, who is acting Umno president after former prime minister Najib Razak stepped down last month, added that there is a possibility that Umno would be deregistered soon.

Officials at the anti-graft agency did not respond to messages asking for their responses to the frozen accounts or the Wednesday raid on an apartment of Mr Low, known popularly as Jho Low.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said Malaysia intends to recover all funds taken illicitly from 1MDB.

Mr Lim had on June 14 told Reuters that a plan was "on the table" to ask all individuals and political parties to return money that came from 1MDB, which was allegedly used as a slush fund by Datuk Seri Najib.

Mr Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and said he did not benefit or steal money from 1MDB. The former premier has been quizzed and had his homes raided in an ongoing probe into alleged money-laundering at the state fund.

Mr Lim had claimed that Umno was one of the parties to have received 1MDB money.

It was not clear if freezing the party's central bank accounts would affect the ongoing internal election of Umno. Some 150,000 party delegates have since last week been flocking to pick their new chiefs for the next three years. This weekend, they will vote in their new president, deputy president, three vice-presidents and other top leaders.

A source told The Straits Times that the serviced apartment said to have been previously used by Mr Low and raided by the MACC on Wednesday was called 3 Kia Peng, and located about a kilometre from the Petronas Twin Towers.

Several documents and an undisclosed amount of cash were understood to have been seized from the premises.

Among those present at the raid, the source said, was Mr Najib's special officer Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin. The 42-year-old man is under police remand for seven days from Monday as part of the investigations into 1MDB.

Last year, The Straits Times reported that Mr Amhari was among key figures involved in 1MDB's negotiations with Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company to settle an outstanding loan obligation.

Meanwhile, Mr Najib has continued to insist that most of the items seized from six residences linked to him were gifts from friends and foreign dignitaries.

These included gifts from royalty for various occasions such as official visits and family events, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and engagements.

He said in a statement yesterday that his family has started the legal process to reclaim items that police had seized from them.

Malaysian police on Wednesday said the cash, jewellery, luxury handbags, watches and sunglasses that were seized have been valued at between RM900 million (S$305 million) and RM1.1 billion.

"Some of the items seized belong to relatives and various third parties," Mr Najib said, adding: "We dispute the quantity and the valuation given in the press conference by the police since such valuation is subjective and is subject to when the gifts were given."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2018, with the headline 'Graft busters freeze Umno bank accounts, raid Jho Low's apartment'. Print Edition | Subscribe