Fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, reached out to the previous Pakatan Harapan-led government to avoid charges over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, reported Al Jazeera.
- wanted the Malaysian government to help him deal with the US, Singapore, Switzerland over charges he faces in those countries
- offered to return assets he bought with 1MDB funds, saying he had merely “borrowed” the money
- pinned the blame on Najib, claiming he had no authority to make any decision over 1MDB
- claimed Najib received only a small donation from King Abdullah
- revealed that the US$1 billion that landed in Najib’s bank account was from 1MDB
- believed that Rosmah bought jewellery worth more than US$500k using 1MDB funds
- claimed that the Abu Dhabi government was complicit in wrongdoings related to 1MDB
- absolved himself from any wrongdoing over the scandal
- admitted it was a very difficult and stressful situation for him
- could still travel due to “high-level government assistance”
- has bee living in a house owned by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party in Macau since at least February 2018
Al Jazeera said that Low allegedly spoke to Malaysian government representatives in a series of phone calls from May to November of 2018.
Audio clips of his phone conversations were featured in Al Jazeera’s two-part special investigation titled “Jho Low: Hunt For A Fugitive”.
The news network said it had privately verified the conversations, which were given to it exclusively.
However, it did not identify whom Low was speaking to from the Malaysian side.
“I want you to convey if possible to Mahathir (former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) 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,” said Low in one of the clips.
He said that in return, he would give up all assets and that the monies would be used to repay 1MDB bonds.
Apart from Malaysia, Low is also wanted by the US Justice Department for criminal offences despite reaching a US$700 million civil suit settlement with them last year.
In the audio clips, Low is heard saying that he wanted the Malaysian government to help him deal with the United States, Singapore and Switzerland over charges he faces in those countries.
He also pinned the blame on former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, claiming that ultimately, he had no authority to make any decision over the sovereign wealth fund.
“It is a pretty known fact that all the approvals have to be approved by the minister of finance,” Low said, in reference to Najib.
Najib was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210mil in July this year for a case involving SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary.
Najib, who is currently out on bail while awaiting the outcome of his appeal, is also facing multiple other charges in relation to 1MDB.
Low said the US$1 billion that landed in Najib’s bank account was from 1MDB and not a gift from the late Saudi King Abdullah.
He also said that Najib did receive a donation from the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, but it was only a small portion that ended up in Najib’s personal bank account.
Low made a startling claim concerning Rosmah Mansor, on whom he famously showered gifts, the most notorious of which was a US$27 million pink diamond paid for with 1MDB money.
He alleged Rosmah received far more of the spoils than that, “north of half a billion dollars” worth, in fact, adding that the final sum “was a huge amount” without disclosing the figure.
Low also claimed that Najib’s son, Ashman, barraged him with text messages, including one which told him not to trust anyone from “the other side” and that a deal would be proposed but it was a “trick”.
The Penangnite absolved himself from any wrongdoing over the scandal.
He admitted that it was a very difficult and stressful situation for him.
He suggested that he borrowed billions from 1MDB to buy luxury items, including high-end real estate, art pieces, a private jet and a mega-yacht.
“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,” Low said.
But former FBI special agent Debra LaPrevotte, who was involved in the 1MDB investigation, dismisses Low’s claim, saying if there was no wrongdoing, he would not want to return assets nor would they be seized in the first place.
Low, who is on two International Criminal Organisation’s (Interpol) Red Notices and with a warrant for his arrest in the US, had in the recordings also discussed possible meet-ups with Malaysian government representatives either in Hong Kong or Macau.
However, a day before the scheduled meeting, Low was recorded informing his contact that he had flown to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) instead.
“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; [UAE are] ultra-paranoid now, so I think it’s going to be challenging for me to get any clearance to meet,” he was quoted saying.
Al Jazeera cited flight records showing Low’s travel footprint included moving from Bangkok to Dubai as recent as November 2019 on a privately chartered flight, using yet another passport issued by the Caribbean nation of Grenada. He stopped for three days in Ahmedabad, India along the way.
Low has been reported holding several passports, including from Cyprus and St Kitts, apart from his Malaysian one. While these passports had been cancelled following the Interpol wanted notice, Al Jazeera reported that he was able to continue his globe trekking adventures due to “high-level government assistance” though without naming the country or countries involved.
Low also claimed the Abu Dhabi government was complicit in wrongdoings related to 1MDB.
“The reality is, Abu Dhabi people did take money.
“The discussion I left off with them is, look, whatever I settle with the DoJ that is used to pay 1MDB bonds, you should all match the same amount, which is probably close to US$1 billion,” he was quoted saying.
The report from Al Jazeera based on the audio recordings, if genuine, would be the first time the world has publicly heard Low’s voice in conversation since the 1MDB scandal emerged.
The Qatari news agency cited Bill McMurry, a former FBI special agent who led the 1MDB investigation from 2015 until recently and is now with a private company called 5 Stones Intelligence.
Al Jazeera also said its sources in Malaysia and Macau confirmed that Low has been living in a house owned by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party in Macau since at least February 2018.
Several times in the recordings, Low claimed to be in China.
In September 2018, Tun Daim Zainuddin, who was a member of the PH government’s advisory Council of Eminent Persons, said Low had telephoned him as early as June to negotiate his immunity from prosecution over the 1MDB scandal.
Daim who had acted as then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir’s economic adviser said he had rebuffed Low’s negotiation attempts, telling the latter to speak to an unnamed representative instead.