KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia on Tuesday (Dec 4) issued warrants of arrest against fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho and four others in connection with the 1MDB scandal.
The government's move is seen as a step to enable the country to seek Interpol's help in issuing a red notice to locate, provisionally arrest and extradite them.
The warrants were issued by Kuala Lumpur's magistrate court to facilitate the probe into the huge financial scandal linked to troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The whereabouts of Low, who is widely called Jho Low, and the four other men are unknown.
Five money laundering charges were levelled against Low totalling US$1.03 billion (S$1.4 billion) on Tuesday, according to Malaysian media reports.
Low's aide Eric Tan Kim Loong, former 1MDB general counsel Loo Ai Swan, former 1MDB executive director Tang Keng Chee and former 1MDB official Geh Choh Heng were also charged in absentia with money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
In a separate joint charge with Tan, Low also faces an accusation of money laundering amounting to US$125.97 million.
Loo faces a money laundering charge of US$5.99 million, while Tang had a US$2.41 million criminal breach of trust and money laundering charge against him. Meanwhile, Geh was charged with money laundering totalling US$125 million.
Low, an associate of former prime minister Najib Razak and his family, has denied any wrongdoing relating to the corruption scandal at 1MDB, saying he was an informal consultant at the fund.
Low's spokesman said on Tuesday that the Penang-born businessman "will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and there is no independent legal process."
"It is clear that Low cannot get a fair trial in Malaysia, where the regime has proven numerous times that they have no interest in the rule of law," the spokesman said in a statement.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has, in its civil suits to seize luxury assets bought with stolen 1MDB funds, alleged that Low was the mastermind behind the misappropriation of over US$4.5 billion from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, with help from top Malaysian officials.
The issuing of the warrants of arrest is seen as another step taken by the six-month-old Pakatan Harapan government to speedily go after those it believes were involved in the scandal, in contrast to foot-dragging by the former government led by Najib.
On Aug 24, Malaysian police filed criminal charges against Low and his father over money allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
Low's father, Larry Low Hock Peng, faces one charge of transferring US$56 million to his son.
Najib himself has been charged with money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abusing his position over claims that he pocketed money from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB. He faces a total of 38 graft-related charges.
The Mahathir administration has also seized and put up for auction the US$250 million Equanimity superyacht that was allegedly bought by Low using funds from 1MDB.
Malaysia's leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said two weeks ago that Kuala Lumpur is seeking direct talks with Goldman Sachs to recoup more than US$600 million that the investment bank earned from raising funds for 1MDB.