Malaysia says hasn't asked Interpol to trace financier Jho Low over 1MDB scandal

1MDB, founded by Prime Minister Najib Razak, is facing money-laundering probes in at least six countries including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.
1MDB, founded by Prime Minister Najib Razak, is facing money-laundering probes in at least six countries including the US, Switzerland and Singapore.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia said there is no current request for Interpol's assistance in locating financier Low Taek Jho, a central figure in global investigations linked to a troubled state investment fund.

Police have closed a case related to Mr Low and there hasn't been any follow-up from Interpol, according to a statement from the office of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

It rebutted media reports of a renewed search for Mr Low, saying comments by Mr Zahid in Parliament on Monday (Oct 23) had been manipulated. The statement didn't elaborate on the case involving Mr Low.

Mr Zahid earlier said that authorities had asked Interpol to track Mr Low, without specifying when the request it was made. He was responding to a query on whether authorities would ask Interpol to help determine Mr Low's location and seek their cooperation in arresting and repatriating him to assist in investigations in Malaysia.

1Malaysia Development Bhd is at the heart of a number of foreign probes from the US to Switzerland, focused on possible embezzlement or money laundering at the fund set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009.

At home, investigations into 1MDB have been largely completed without criminal charges laid. The fund has said its monies are accounted for.

"Malaysia is confident that the actions by several parties at the international level, especially intelligence agencies, have concluded," Mr Zahid said in Parliament, without specifying the probes he was referring to.

"And we are confident that the case is no longer relevant, and is only brought up by politicians who are not satisfied about it."

Mr Low's representative in the US didn't immediately reply to an e-mailed request for comment, while Jynwel Capital, his company in Hong Kong, didn't respond to calls and an e-mail.

Interpol also didn't reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

Mr Low has previously described his role with the fund as informal consulting that didn't break any laws.

Mr Zahid had clearly stated there's no case for charges or a conviction to be made, according to the statement.

Despite Mr Zahid's comments, court filings indicate the US is escalating its probe to track how much of the money that was raised by 1MDB was used to pay for luxury real estate in New York, London and Beverly Hills, film productions, private jets, yachts and more.

The Justice Department in August asked a judge to put on hold a dozen-plus civil forfeiture lawsuits seeking more than US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in assets in the US, Britain and Switzerland while it conducts a criminal investigation.

The targeted assets included those acquired by Mr Low.

The fund has consistently denied any misconduct.

Mr Najib, who until last year was the chairman of 1MDB's advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by Malaysia's attorney general.

The opposition has used 1MDB as a rallying point to weaken Mr Najib's government in recent years and the premier has distanced himself from the fund as the country moves closer to elections that must be held by August 2018.

Attempts to link Mr Low to recent guilty pleas in 1MDB-related probes in Singapore are based on "unfounded assumptions", after prosecutors said he used money traceable to the state fund for his own benefit, a representative for the financier said in July.

Malaysian authorities had stated that there has been no evidence of any misappropriation of 1MDB funds, and no wrongdoing has been proved in any jurisdiction relating to the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds, Mr Low's representative added.