KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho is still a wanted man in the United States despite him reaching a settlement with the United States' Department of Justice (DOJ), according to a senior State Department official.
US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David R. Stilwell said investigations against the Malaysian, better known as Jho Low, were still ongoing.
Although the DOJ announced a settlement of its civil forfeiture against assets worth about RM3 billion (S$980 million) acquired by Low, he said this did not absolve the fugitive from any criminal wrongdoing.
"We are still pursuing justice. Criminal action is still on, " he said during a media round-table event here on Friday (Nov 1).
It was reported on Thursday that the DOJ had struck a deal with Low, to recoup almost US$1 billion looted from Malaysian investment fund 1MDB, in what would be the biggest recovery from an American anti-corruption crackdown.
This was described as the most significant win for the DOJ's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative since it was set up almost a decade ago to prevent the US from becoming a safe haven for stolen money.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had responded by saying that Malaysia would ask the US to return the US$1 billion seized from Low.
Mr Stilwell said the US would be "extremely happy" to return the money to Malaysia.
"We are happy to return the money to where it belongs, " he added.
On bilateral matters with Malaysia, Mr Stilwel said the US-Malaysia defence relationship was progressing, and described his meeting on Thursday with Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong as "fantastic".
"We explored areas of common security concerns, " he said, adding that the US was interested in increasing maritime domain awareness in the region.
"It is basically about knowing what is happening in your exclusive zone, such as illegal fishing, " he said.
Mr Stilwell said there should be tougher enforcement in exclusive maritime domain to protect resources.
On trade relations, he said captains of the industry in the US were looking for business opportunities in Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region.
"It will be a truly win-win endeavour if trade is done the right way without political interference, " he said, calling for transparency in business dealings to check cheating.
He said US investors still regarded Malaysia as an attractive investment spot.
"The biggest thing we can do is to highlight Malaysia as an attractive investment destination.
"Signing agreements is like courtship or dating.
"But investment is like marriage, it is the glue that holds together solid and long-term business relations, " he said.
On the US-China trade war, Mr Stilwell said Beijing needed to be transparent.
"Both sides need to live up to what they have agreed upon. And we have agreed to an open market and transparent interaction.
"As agreed under WTO (World Trade Organisation), there shouldn't be undue government influence in trade deals, " he added.