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Malaysia: Jho Low Faces Money-Laundering Charges Tied to 1MDB Scandal

Hadi Azmi and Ali Nufael
Kuala Lumpur
2018-08-24
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Government lawyers Jeremy M. Joseph (left), and Ong Chee Kwan address reporters in Kuala Lumpur after a court approved the sale of Equanimity, the yacht linked to fugitive financier Jho Low, Aug. 24, 2018.
Government lawyers Jeremy M. Joseph (left), and Ong Chee Kwan address reporters in Kuala Lumpur after a court approved the sale of Equanimity, the yacht linked to fugitive financier Jho Low, Aug. 24, 2018.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

The fugitive banker known as Jho Low was charged Friday in Kuala Lumpur over money- laundering allegations linked to the beleaguered state fund 1MDB, the same day that a court approved the sale of his $250 million yacht.

Jho Low, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, will face three charges of receiving funds and five charges of transferring funds totaling 1 billion ringgit ($261 million) under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act, officials said.

In addition, his father, businessman Larry Low Hock Peng, who also is a fugitive, was charged with transferring money to his son under the same act, authorities said.

Jho Low has been identified as a close associate of former Prime Minister Najib Razak who founded the fund known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In a statement on Friday, Inspector General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) had forwarded its findings to the attorney general’s chamber.

“The charge was made in the Putrajaya Court on Friday and the court produced arrest warrants against the two,” Fuzi said.

He added that police would ask Interpol to issue a Red Notice to track, arrest and extradite father and son.

Of the money linked to Jho Low, one transaction of $56 million (229 million ringgit) was received from his father’s account from a Singapore bank used by both men, according to the charges.

The younger Low then allegedly transferred $196 million (802 million ringgit) between Jan. 7 and June 3, 2014, to the account of World View Ltd. which has been identified as the Low family trust.

Jho Low will not submit to ‘unfair trial’: lawyers

Separately on Friday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted an application from the 1MDB group to sell the yacht.

Lawyer Ong Chee Kwan told reporters that the government wished to sell the ship quickly because of its high maintenance cost. Plans are to sell it through public auction or public treaty.

“The longer you have it maintained, it will diminish the value at the end of the day,” Ong said.

Ong predicted that the yacht would be sold in a month or two. Indonesian authorities handed over the yacht, The Equanimity, now docked at Port Klang, east of Kuala Lumpur, on Aug. 7 after seizing it on Feb. 28 while it was moored in Bali.

“The buyer will have a clean ownership. There will be no issue with the new owner,” he said.

Previously, cabinet minister Sivarasa Rasiah had said that the government hoped to sell Equanimity for 500 million ringgit ($122 million) after ownership concerns were resolved.

The announcement came after Jho Low, the presumed owner, failed to file an application to challenge the yacht’s sale.

Meanwhile, Low’s lawyers issued a statement that their client was mulling his legal options but would not submit to an unfair trial.

“He will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and self-interest overrules the legal process. 

“It is abundantly clear that it would be impossible for Mr. Low to get a fair trial in Malaysia, where the government has proven time and time again that they have no interest in the rule of law,” said the statement issued Friday by a media consultancy firm in Australia.

U.S. Justice Department officials have described the 1MDB case as “the worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times,” and accused Jho Low of laundering more than $400 million (1.6 billion ringgit) stolen from 1MDB through acquisitions of properties in California, New York and London. Among the acquisitions were the yacht and a jet purchased for $35 million.

Najib has been charged with criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering linked to 1MDB and is to face trial in February 2019. He lost power in May when his Barisan Nasional coalition lost the general election to the Pakatan Harapan alliance whose campaign promises included investigating the 1MDB scandal.

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