Malaysia's police chief is contacting his counterpart in China to pin down the whereabouts of fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, who some say is hiding in the country, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“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 Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low] is in China,” Mahathir told BenarNews in an interview in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Mahathir spoke to BenarNews late Thursday, a day after Malaysian police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said they had identified Jho Low’s location and hope to bring him back by the end of the year to help in investigations into a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
Abdul Hamid did not name China. He had previously said that Malaysian police were working with an unnamed Asian country to secure Jho Low's arrest and extradition.
“I will try my best to expedite (the process) … hopefully we can get him back by the end of the year,” Abdul Hamid said at a Malaysian forum broadcast live on television.
Jho Low is 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.
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.
When asked by BenarNews, Mahathir said that he did not raise the Jho Low issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing last month.
“I didn’t discuss it. There are people who say Jho Low is in China. I didn’t raise that question, but police, they are looking for evidence on his whereabouts, as some say he is in China.”
Abdul Hamid said on Wednesday that he believes Low “has the protection of someone” who provided him a safe haven in a certain country, Reuters news agency reported.
“Our investigations found that he is free to move around, and able to run his businesses without any restrictions,” Abdul Hamid said.
Asked if Malaysian authorities would be able to secure Jho Low's return, he said: "I am confident."
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.