LONDON - Lawyers acting for fugitive financier Jho Low, who is wanted by Malaysian police on money-laundering charges linked to state investment company 1MDB, are seeking to block two upcoming books on the 1MDB scandal, the Sarawak Report said.
The books are The Sarawak Report by Clare Rewcastle-Brown, the British editor of the eponymous newspaper who broke the 1MDB scandal, and Billion Dollar Whale, written by journalists from the Wall Street Journal.
Both are due to be published this month, the Sarawak Report said on Friday (Aug 31).
The report said the British publisher of The Sarawak Report received a letter on Thursday from the London law firm Schillings, the company hired by Low to represent him regarding alleged defamation issues. The letter threatened the publisher with "substantial damages" on the basis that the law firm assumed the book would repeat what it called defamatory accusations about Jho Low made on Sarawak Report.
The British publishers of the Wall Street Journal book are understood to have also received numerous similar letters over the past few weeks, the Sarawak Report said. The WSJ has said Schillings are being funded through payments made by Phengphian Laogumnerd a Thai businessman, whose close business ties to Jho Low have previously been detailed by Sarawak Report.
According to the Wall Street Journal, US investigators are now probing whether the money used to fund Schillings and other lawyers working for Jho Low was itself stolen from 1MDB. Leogumnerd has stated he is wealthy in his own right.
The WSJ writers say they will continue to publish their book in the United States. Sarawak Report has not directly received any correspondence so far from Schillings and will continue to publish the book independently in Britain, which has far-reaching libel laws, and Malaysia.
The investigative news site said pre-purchased copies of the book will be sent out as pledged and the books will continue to be sold through its website.
Meanwhile, Malaysian investigators have completed 60 percent of their probe into 1MDB after reopening the case about three months ago, officials were reported as saying on Thursday.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is pushing for a quick resolution to investigations into the multibillion-dollar scandal surrounding 1MDB as he seeks to recover US$4.5 billion potentially lost through the fund.
Gathering evidence across borders may prove to be the bigger challenge as authorities seek to trace the complex globe-spanning transactions that have spawned investigations in at least 10 countries.
The court has laid several charges of corruption, abuse of power and money laundering against former premier Najib Razak, with all of them linked to RM42 million of domestic transactions.
Malaysia has requested Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Jho Low, full name Low Taek Jho, who has been painted as a central figure in the 1MDB case, and his father Larry Low Hock Peng. Their whereabouts are not publicly known.
On Thursday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said it has compiled almost all local evidence, and is now collecting information from outside the country with cooperation from the foreign authorities, including US and Singapore.
"Give us time to get statements from overseas," Deputy Chief Commissioner Azam Baki told reporters near Kuala Lumpur according to Bloomberg. "We're left with about 40 per cent, which is all the evidence we need from the foreign countries. It involves many countries."
Low has hired former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and one of President Donald Trump's go-to law firms, Kasowitz Benson Torres, to defend his interests in a US Justice Department investigation, Bloomberg noted.
On Aug 24, Low's father reduced his stake in Singapore-based Frencken Group Ltd., according to an exchange filing.