PETALING JAYA - Fugitive businessman Jho Low has dismissed a report by the Wall Street Journal linking China to Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB as "a continuation of a trial by media" led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The Journal said in a report on Monday (Jan 7) that senior Chinese leaders offered in 2016 to help bail out 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB, which is at the centre of a swelling, multi-billion-dollar graft scandal. The report cited minutes from a series of previously undisclosed meetings.
Chinese officials told visiting Malaysians that China would use its influence to try to get the United States and other countries to drop their probes of allegations that allies of then Prime Minister Najib Razak and others plundered the fund, the report said.
The Chinese also offered to bug the homes and offices of Journal reporters in Hong Kong who were investigating the fund, to learn who was leaking information to them, according to the minutes.
In return, Malaysia offered lucrative stakes in railway and pipeline projects for China's One Belt, One Road programme of building infrastructure abroad. Within months, Najib - who has denied any wrongdoing in the 1MDB matter - signed US$34 billion (S$46 billion) of rail, pipeline and other deals with Chinese state companies, to be funded by Chinese banks and built by Chinese workers.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) had said that US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by top Malaysian officials and their associates. The financier in the case, Jho Low, also known as Low Taek Jho, was charged in federal court in New York late last year in connection with the theft and money laundering.
Low's whereabouts are not known although he is believed to be in China.
The financier responded to the Journal report via a statement issued by his spokesman on Tuesday, The Star Online reported on Wednesday.
"The Wall Street Journal's latest story is simply a continuation of the Mahathir regime's trial by media," said Low.
"The article is a selection of half-truths, mixed in with fiction, to create a misleading and oversimplified narrative that has been peddled by a morally bankrupt Mahathir regime to advance its failing political cause."
Najib and the Chinese embassy in Malaysia have also dismissed the Journal's allegations as "groundless".
Low said the claims were politically motivated by the administration of Tun Mahathir, who came into power after sweeping general elections last May.
"Extraordinary and serious claims require extraordinary evidence, and the Mahathir regime has failed to provide any legitimate evidence to support these politically motivated accusations," Low said.
"It is the journalistic responsibility of the Wall Street Journal to have approached such claims with scepticism and suspicion, and it is unfortunate that these baseless political accusations are passed off as legitimate reporting."