Malaysia seeks playboy financier over 1MDB scandal

Public disgust over claims that Malaysia's former leader and his cronies looted 1MDB were a major factor in Najib Razak's shock election loss
AFP

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency said Thursday it was seeking the assistance of a playboy financier as it steps up investigations into a massive financial scandal.

Jho Low is accused of being a key figure in the controversy surrounding sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. He is a close associate of toppled prime minister Najib Razak, and allegedly part of a scheme to plunder billions from the investment vehicle.

Public disgust over claims that the former leader and his cronies looted 1MDB were a major factor in the shock election loss last month of Najib’s long-ruling coalition.

Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, notorious for her vast collection of designer handbags, have already been questioned by anti-corruption investigators over the disappearance of money from a former unit of 1MDB.

However Low, a high-roller who hung out with celebrities in the US and reportedly splurged vast sums in New York party hotspots, is still at large and thought to be outside Malaysia.

The flamboyant 36-year-old held no official positions at 1MDB but is believed to have exerted great influence over the fund.

The US Justice Departmant alleges he funnelled vast sums of money from 1MDB to the United States, and used it to buy everything from rare art to high-end real estate. Low has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said it was seeking Low to aid their investigations into SRC International, which used to be a subsidiary of 1MDB.

The anti-graft agency is also after the assistance of SRC director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that 42 million ringgit ($11 million) originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts — just one small part of the graft scandal.

A spokesman for Low said he was aware of the MACC request for assistance.

“Mr. Low immediately instructed his lawyers to make contact with the MACC today with respect to offering such assistance,” said a statement from the spokesman.

The financier’s current whereabouts are unclear. He was believed to have been sailing around Asia on a luxury yacht allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB cash before it was seized off the Indonesian holiday island of Bali in February.

Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin meanwhile said that sufficient evidence had been gathered to bring Low to justice, state news agency Bernama reported. 

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