NEW YORK • Malaysia is trying to seek the return of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, using what Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad described as "private efforts".
Speaking at a meeting with the US Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Tun Dr Mahathir claimed that Low is in China but pointed out that Kuala Lumpur does not have an extradition treaty with Beijing.
"It is quite tricky for us to accuse China of hiding him, so we are trying to work out some ways or private efforts to get Jho Low back from China," he said.
Dr Mahathir said this in response to a question on whether Low is in China.
He was also asked whether Malaysia has communicated with China about seeking Low's return to face charges over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Dr Mahathir poured cold water over Low's alleged claims of being a Chinese intelligence asset.
He said: "I don't think so. I don't think China has any respect for him at all."
Asked why China has not expelled Low, Dr Mahathir said he did not know their thoughts.
Pressed further on what was his best guess, he said with a laugh: "Well, maybe he's a bargaining chip or something like that."
Dr Mahathir was also asked during the event whether Malaysia's ties with Saudi Arabia have been affected after former prime minister Najib Razak said it was a Saudi royal who had given him a controversial RM2.6 billion (S$860 million) donation.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has not made any direct accusation against Saudi Arabia.
He added: "Well, we haven't made any direct accusation against them. What we have done is something like pulling back our troops (who were based in Saudi), but that is not connected.
"Of course, we don't know really what the Saudis think but if they really did give the money to Najib, just show us the evidence. So far, no evidence."
Meanwhile, another high-end jeweller from the Middle East is seeking the return of jewellery worth more than US$5 million (S$6.8 million) that was allegedly delivered by hand to Najib's wife, Madam Rosmah Mansor, earlier this year.
According to lawyer Ashok Kandiah, his client, Dubai-based Adi Hasan AlFardan Jewellery, has instructed him to send a letter to Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director, Commissioner Amar Singh, to recover a necklace and a set of necklace and earrings.
Mr Ashok said the letter stated that Madam Rosmah explained to the owner, Mr Adi AlFardan, that the items had been seized by the CCID in raids on several premises linked to Najib.
The items were apparently not paid for and had been passed to her in March.
The letter also stated that Mr AlFardan had often been able to bypass Customs and immigration checks during his four trips to Malaysia as he was escorted by Malaysian officials.
In June, Lebanon-based jeweller Global Royalty Trading filed a suit against Madam Rosmah seeking the return of 44 pieces of jewellery worth more than US$14.7 million.