New Straits Times
‘Jho Low a free man in China’
Malaysian officials believe China is harbouring him, reports WSJ
A WSJ report says Low summoned his wife, two young children and close associates to Macau after the May 9 polls. They then began moving between hotel suites and luxury apartments in Chinese cities, including Hong Kong and avoid detection.
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AREQUEST for the extradition of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, the kingpin behind the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, will be high on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s agenda during his trip to China.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), citing Malaysian officials, reported that Malaysian officials believe China had been harbouring Low, who is one of the world’s mostwanted financial fugitives and has been placed on Interpol’s Red Notice for two years.
He escaped the Malaysian police dragnet twice when a Bukit Aman team searched for him in Hong Kong and Macau in June.
Both times, local authorities told Bukit Aman officers that Low had just flown out.
“Several Malaysian officials say they believe he is now being harboured in mainland China after helping the country with business deals and diplomacy as the 1MDB scandal blew up.
“When Dr Mahathir kicks off a trip to China on Friday for meetings with officials, including President Xi Jinping, a request to extradite Jho Low will be high on the agenda,” WSJ reported, quoting officials who had helped prepare for the trip.
Malaysia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China.
It was reported that Low had been courted by China due to his close ties with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Low is believed to have helped arrange infrastructure projects, financed by China, from which funds were diverted to cover debts owed by 1MDB.
WSJ reported that the 14th General Election (GE14) results, which saw Barisan Nasional ousted from power, spooked Low.
“The election result spooked Jho Low, who summoned his family and entourage to the Marriott Hotel in Macau just after the May 9 vote to discuss the situation and implement more stringent security protocols, people familiar with his activities said.
“In a penthouse suite, staff and family members packed up suitcases of documents as a pair of burly Chinese men worked out Jho Low’s logistics on laptops, one of the people said.
“As they left, an aide to Jho Low wiped down countertops with alcohol to remove any fingerprints.”
Low is said to have started moving between hotel suites and luxury apartments in Chinese cities, including Hong Kong and Shanghai, with his wife, two young children and close associates.
“At times, he has travelled with a Chinese security detail and bragged about ‘working with Chinese intelligence’,” WSJ reported.
WSJ said its requests for comment from China’s Foreign Ministry went unanswered.
It said Malaysian officials expected China to negotiate hard over the infrastructure deals it had secured and believed Beijing saw Low as a bargaining chip and would not hand him over easily.
It was reported that after the shock GE14 result, Low had contacted the new Malaysian government by telephone with a proposition that he would return more than US$1 billion (RM4.1 billion) in assets and go home in return for immunity from prosecution. The offer was refused. Dr Mahathir had said the United States’ Department of Justice confirmed that luxury yacht Equanimity, which had been seized by the government, belonged to Low, who bought it using money stolen from Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Malay Mail Online reported that a spokesman for Low accused WSJ of “gross breach of journalistic ethics”.
The spokesman said this was because WSJ continued to report on Low despite having a financial interest in a particular narrative, specifically an upcoming book written by its journalists.
Two WSJ journalists, Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, will release a book on Low and 1MDB next month, titled Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World.
“Today’s Wall Street Journal article was obviously planted there by the Mahathir regime, working with these reporters towards a common goal — the Wall Street Journal reporters have a book coming out next month that they are trying to sell,” he said.
Low insisted that his case has been a trial-by-media from the start, “fuelled by leaks from prosecutors and government officials who have little interest in the truth”.
“It is little wonder Mr Low believes there is no jurisdiction where he can get a fair hearing in this matter.
“To reiterate: Mr Low will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and self-interest overrules legal process,” he added.