Without naming China, Malaysia expressed regret Monday about the lack of cooperation from the country where fugitive financier Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low) is hiding.
Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that without such cooperation, it would be difficult to take action against Low, a key figure in the corruption scandal surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Malaysian and U.S. investigators say at least U.S. $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by Low and other high-level officials of the fund and their associates.
“Though we have obtained information on his whereabouts, and Interpol has issued a red notice on him, without the cooperation of the country where we believe he is hiding, it is difficult to take action,” Muhyiddin told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, according to Malaysia's official news agency Bernama.
“We are still trying, we cannot give up. Whatever it takes, we want him back in Malaysia to face the courts and will leave it to the courts to decide,” he said, without identifying China.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in an interview with BenarNews on Sept. 27 that the country's police chief was contacting his counterpart in China to pin down Low's whereabouts.
“I am confident that the IGP [Inspector-General of Police] will contact his counterpart in China to obtain acknowledgment, if he can, and evidence that he [Low] is in China,” Mahathir said.
Mahathir spoke to BenarNews a day after Malaysian police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said they had identified Jho Low’s location and hoped to bring him back by the end of the year to help in investigations into the multi-billion dollar scandal.
Abdul Hamid did not name China. He had previously said that Malaysian police were working with an unnamed Asian country to secure Low's arrest and extradition.
Muhyiddin said Malaysia would leave no stone unturned in its bid to bring the fugitive businessman to justice, according to Bernama.
Police chief Abdul Hamid, speaking in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island, said certain countries were being "irresponsible" by offering asylum to Low.
They also refused to cooperate with Malaysia, making it difficult for the authorities to pursue action, he said, according to Bernama.
“...[H]e seems to get a kind of immunity and protection from the authorities...We have tried various approaches, but they are giving us various excuses to the extent of saying that he had undergone facial plastic surgery,” he said.
1MDB was founded by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was ousted in elections last year when the scandal was a central theme of the campaign. He is facing 42 criminal charges related to losses at 1MDB and other state entities.
Prosecutors accuse Najib of pocketing U.S. $681 million from 1MDB, saying the money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle for the former leader and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, who is also facing corruption charges. Najib and Low have denied any wrongdoings.
Hamid’s predecessor Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quoted saying last year that Malaysian police had sent a team to Hong Kong to track down Low, but were unsuccessful.
In January, Fuzi had said that police met with authorities in China to track down the fugitive, reports said.