Malaysian police said Wednesday they were looking to extradite fugitive financier Jho Low and four other suspects, including former 1MDB employees, after a court filed fresh charges against them over the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from the state fund.
Low Taek Jho (better known as Jho Low) and his family friend, Eric Tan Kim Loong were charged Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court. They were indicted along with 1MDB Business Development Director Casey Tang Keng Chee, legal counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan and Executive Director of Finance Terrence Geh Choh Heng, authorities said.
The five face a total of 13 charges involving losses totaling U.S. $1.17 billion (4.85 ringgit). In a statement on Wednesday, Police Inspector-General Mohamad Fuzi Harun said all five had fled the country and police were increasing efforts to arrest them.
“The Royal Malaysian Police will seek cooperation from foreign authorities as well as Interpol to help track them,” Fuzi said. “If they are identified to be in any other countries, the police through the Attorney General’s Chamber will apply for an extradition notice to allow them to be brought back to Malaysia to face the charges.”
Fuzi said Jho Low, who already faces eight charges, was charged with five counts of money laundering under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act for allegedly receiving $1.03 billion (4.27 billion ringgit) into the account of Gold Star Limited at a Zurich bank between Sept. 30, 2009, and Oct. 25, 2011.
In addition, he and Eric Tan were jointly charged under the same act over losses totaling $126 million ($523 million ringgit) relating to debt notes by the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) in May 2009 that the two allegedly received through a Singapore account.
TIA was set up with the help of Low in 2008 as a sovereign wealth fund for the Malaysian state of Terengganu before being taken over by the Ministry of Finance and incorporated into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) on July 31, 2009.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who as finance minister founded 1MDB, has been identified as a close associate of Jho Low. His party was defeated in a general election in May by the Pakatan Harapan alliance led Mahathir Mohamad. As the new prime minister, Mahathir has reopened investigations into 1MDB that have led to 38 corruption charges against Najib.
‘Cannot get a free trial in Malaysia’: Jho Low spokesman
In the United States, Department of Justice officials described 1MDB as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times,” alleging that almost $4.5 billion (18.7 billion ringgit) from the state fund was embezzled and laundered through real estate and other assets.
On Tuesday, a Jho Low spokesman issued a statement through his attorneys alleging that the new charges against their client were trumped up and political.
“These charges are intended to create another false sense of security for the political loss that the Mahathir regime has brought upon itself due to its failures on current issues,” the statement said.
“They are no more than a continuation of the trial by media and political reprisals by the Mahathir regime.”
The statement affirmed Jho Low’s claim of innocence and his stance of not submitting himself to jurisdictions “without an independent legal process.”
“It is clear that Mr. Low cannot get a free trial in Malaysia where the regime has proven numerous times that they have no interest in the rule of law,” the statement added.
Jho Low was charged on Aug. 24 with receiving $261 million (1 billion ringgit) from 1MDB between Dec. 26, 2013, and June 3, 2014.
Earlier that month, business daily The Edge Markets reported the money was used to purchase the yacht Equanimity, which is in the process of being sold after being repossessed by the government on Aug. 6.
Fuzi said Tang was charged with one count of criminal breach of trust for his alleged involvement in moving $700 million (2.9 billion ringgit) into an account belonging to Jho Low and two counts under the Anti-Money Laundering Act for allegedly receiving $6.7 million (27.8 million) through offshore bank accounts in the Seychelles and Switzerland, on Aug. 5, 2009 and Dec. 23, 2010, respectively.
Two other 1MDB employees, Loo and Geh, each face two money laundering charges involving $6 million (24.9 million ringgit) and one criminal breach of trust charge involving $125 million (519 million ringgit), respectively.