Report: Jho Low Seeking Deal with DoJ

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Jho Low is planning to negotiate a deal with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) over its investigation into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

  • Jho Low seeking a deal to “retain some of the value” of the US$1.2 billion assets seized by the US
  • Settling the civil action, prosecutors would pursue Goldman Sachs for arranging bonds for 1MDB
  • Settlement would not go down well with Malaysia
  • Recently, US refused to guarantee it would return all money from assets seized to Malaysia
  • DoJ previously agreed to a settlement with Red Granite Pictures, co-founded by Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz.
  • Malaysia also upset that Low’s new hot-shot legal team in the US and libel lawyers in the UK are paid by money stolen from 1MDB

Low’s new legal team, headed by former federal prosecutor and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, has obtained a high-level meeting with DoJ officials, according to the Sarawak Report.

It added that Low’s attempts at seeking a deal would represent an “effective acknowledgement” by him that he was unlikely to be able to persuade US courts to return some US$1.2 billion (RM4.96 billion) in assets that US authorities have seized.

The report also said that by cutting a deal with the DoJ, he is hoping to “retain some of the value of the assets”.

It said that the US’ willingness to discuss a settlement was so that it could focus on other aspects of the 1MDB scandal, such as financial giant Goldman Sachs’ role in arranging multi-billion ringgit bonds for 1MDB which were purportedly then misappropriated.

The report added that the huge sum of money earned through 1MDB has given US investigators “their most compelling evidence” of what many believe to be “rogue behaviour” by a major bank.

“Settling the civil action would free up prosecutors to pursue the Goldman bond issued on behalf of 1MDB, which netted the bank suspiciously obscene commissions of up to 11%.

“The bank has earned the anger and ill-feeling of countless Americans as a result of its pivotal role in causing the crash of 2008 and yet none of its bankers has been brought to book so far.

“The apparent negligence and huge sums earned through 1MDB have provided US investigators their most compelling evidence yet against what many believe to be rogue behaviour by the major bank,” the Sarawak Report said.

Tim Leissner, the former South East Asia boss of Goldman Sachs, has already been picked up in the United States and is understood to be co-operating with the DoJ’s enquiries. A new case against the global bank is where 1MDB now seems headed as it gains even more international significance.

However, the Sarawak Report also noted that a settlement with the DoJ would not go down well with Malaysian authorities.

“Malaysian entities have expressed concern that US authorities may be tempted to negotiate with Low’s new, high-powered legal team, in order to close a case that could otherwise carry on for years.

“Notably, the United States recently refused to grant a Malaysian official request for a guarantee it would return all the money from the assets seized,” it said.

The report also quoted a source who said that the United States’ refusal does not mean that it would not return the money to Malaysia, only that it was insisting on keeping control over the process, which might include settling the case for less than the entire amount.

The DoJ had previously also agreed to a settlement with film production company Red Granite Pictures, which funded its films allegedly using stolen 1MDB funds.

The company, co-founded by former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, reached a settlement amounting to around US$60 million.

The DoJ had claimed that US$64 million in allegedly misappropriated 1MDB funds had been wired to Red Granite, and used to finance the production of films, including Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘.

However, Red Granite did not admit any liability or wrongdoing under that settlement.

It is understood that the approach from Jho Low’s team has not yet been formally discussed with the Malaysian authorities, who may very well react with dismay at the prospect of any settlement of this nature.

Particularly galling to Malaysians is the likelihood that Low’s new and well-connected legal advisors are being generously paid by money that was itself stolen from 1MDB. US investigators have been reported as concluding that the origin of the cash received by Christie and one of President Donald Trump’s go-to law firms, Kasowitz Benson Torres, is indeed 1MDB.

Likewise, the money sent to pay the libel lawyers Schillings in the UK, which has been doing its best to disrupt the publishing of the book The Sarawak Report as well as the Wall Street Journal’s own book in Britain, is also thought to trace back to 1MDB.

Currently believed to be holed up in China, Low is wanted in Malaysia, Singa­pore and other countries over investigations into 1MDB.

Malaysia has applied for an Interpol red notice to seek assistance from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong, and Taiwan via diplomatic channels, to arrest Low.