A FRESH special investigative report by Al Jazeera – Jho Low: Hunt For A Fugitive – has shed light on the fugitive financier’s desperate attempts to strike a deal with the Malaysian government and avoid going to jail over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB financial scandal.
The documentary, helmed by reporter Mary Ann Jolley, featured new phone recordings of Low Taek Jho in conversations with Malaysian authorities from May to November 2018 as he tried to strike a deal with Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s newly-elected Pakatan Harapan administration.
“I have gone from at least being able to meet people, but now I am in lockdown,” said Low before going on to put the blame for 1MDB firmly on former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, who was also finance minister at the time the scandal surrounding the sovereign wealth fund unfolded.
“I have no authority to make any decision … It’s a pretty known fact that … all the approvals have to be approved by the minister of finance,” he told his unidentified Malaysian contact.
Despite spending enormous amounts of money on properties, a private jet, a superyacht and lavish functions, Low maintained he did nothing wrong.
“I don’t believe there’s any wrongdoing. All these ultimately were loans, directly or indirectly, but, ultimately, I think the time has come, we want to assist in repatriating these assets back in return for cooperating and moving on with life without, you know, being prosecuted,” he said in the recordings.
“I want you to convey if possible to Mahathir that I really believe the change in government does present a real opportunity to resolve these 1MDB-related issues.
“I am committed to achieving that.”
He then goes on to claim that Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, spent more than a half a billion dollars of 1MDB money on jewellery.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) documents had detailed Jho Low’s purchase of a US$27 million pink diamond for Rosmah, but in the recordings, he says there was much more.
“North of half a billion dollars’ worth. That was a huge amount,” said Low in reference to the value of the jewellery.
In July, Najib was sentenced to a total of 12 years’ jail and fined of RM210 million on charges of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering related to the misuse of RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd.
His RM2.28 billion 1MDB corruption trial on four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering has been vacated due to the extension of the conditional movement control order (MCO) in Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur until early December.
After laying the blame squarely on Najib, Low then fingered 1MDB’s business partners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The reality is, Abu Dhabi people did take money. The discussion I left off with them is, look, whatever I settle with the US DOJ that is used to pay 1MDB bonds, you should all match the same amount, which is probably close to a billion dollars,” he said.
Still travelling despite Interpol red notices
In the course of the conversations, Low revealed that he was in China and even discussed the possibility of meeting Malaysian authorities in Hong Kong or Macau.
But when Malaysia’s 1MDB investigators attempted to set up a meeting in Macau, he had a change of heart and fled.
“Because of the whole warrant of arrest, you know, effectively the UAE folks didn’t think it was safe, so I [have] just gotten into Dubai,” he said of his attempt to enter the country.
Low then explained how the UAE was “ultra-paranoid” and it was going to be challenging for him to get any clearance to meet with investigators.
The report also highlighted the fugitive’s ability to bypass international borders despite having had two Interpol Red Notices issued against him, an active US arrest warrant and several cancelled passports.
Al Jazeera says it has seen official flight clearance documents confirming earlier reports by Hong Kong-based Asia Times, that as recently as November 2019 Low flew from Bangkok to Dubai stopping off for three days in India’s Ahmedabad.
He was reportedly travelling using a passport from Grenada. – Reported by Malaysiakini