A Malaysian financier wanted for his role in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal has been offered asylum abroad, his spokesman said Friday, as reports surfaced he was in the Middle East.
The news came a day after US officials announced that Low Taek Jho had struck a settlement to forfeit assets worth $700 million, including a Beverly Hills hotel and a private jet, as part of efforts to recover stolen cash.
The jet-setting former unofficial adviser to 1Malaysia Development Berhad allegedly played a key role in plundering the sovereign wealth fund, in a fraud that also purportedly involved former premier Najib Razak.
The whereabouts of Low, who has been charged over the scandal in the US and Malaysia, are a mystery but his representatives now say he has been offered asylum, without naming a country.
“We understand that Mr. Low was offered asylum in August 2019 by a country that acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights,” a spokesperson for Mr. Low, through his attorneys, told AFP.
The spokesperson did not provide further details.
Online news portal The Malaysian Insight reported that Low was in the United Arab Emirates and had been travelling between Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East since June, citing unidentified sources.
But national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador denied Low was in the UAE, according to state news agency Bernama.
Abdul Hamid was quoted as saying Malaysian police had a good relationship with authorities there, meaning it would be difficult for Low to enter the country.
“We are aware of Jho Low’s whereabouts but some people are protecting him. Just give me some time,” he said.
“I will not stop efforts in tracking down and bringing back this criminal.”
Police have previously said that they hoped to bring Low back home by the end of the year to stand trial.
Low, who has denied any wrongdoing, was previously reported to be in China.
Najib’s long-ruling government was booted from power last year in part due to the 1MDB scandal, and the ex-leader has been charged and put on trial.
After the announcement that Low would relinquish assets under the largest ever US civil forfeiture, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia would ask America to hand over what it has recovered from Low.
“We have proof that this is our money and will make a claim with the US government,” he was quoted as saying in The Star newspaper.