On 22 October 2018, former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein boastfully said he will use his personal connections with Beijing to help to track down and repatriate fugitive businessman Jho Low (real name: Low Taek Jho) from China.
Of course, nobody believed Hishammuddin’s fairy tales except probably then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Fresh from a stunning defeat in the May 2018 General Election, the UMNO parliamentarian was trying to apple-polish the 93-year-old premier after his once invincible political party lost power for the first time in 61 years since independence in 1957.
Conveniently, the cousin of Najib made the offer after a frustrated Mahathir blamed internal “sabotage” within the government as among the reasons why Jho Low had managed to evade arrest. The PM was referring to how Najib’s partner in the 1MDB scandal managed to escape at the very last minute, just as authorities reached Hong Kong to apprehend Jho Low.
Apparently, thanks to a tip-off from corrupt government insiders who were still loyal to crooked Najib Razak, fugitive Jho Low fled to Macau to evade arrest in Hong Kong, after which he escaped to mainland China via a private jet. Clearly, neither Hong Kong nor Macau was interested in helping Malaysia track down the cash-rich Low, let alone arrest him.
After the collapse of Najib-led Barisan Nasional coalition in 2018, Singapore claimed that Hong Kong had turned down its request in 2016 to arrest Low Taek Jho. Singapore said – “We issued a warrant of arrest for Low in April 2016, following investigations and charges against him for offences of money-laundering and dishonestly receiving stolen property.”
In fact, Singapore said the arrest warrant and an Interpol red notice against Low have been in force since 2016. On top of Hong Kong, Malaysia has also applied for an Interpol red notice to seek assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar and China. But prior to the defeat of Najib, Low was practically untouchable.
It was only in June 2018, after Najib lost to Mahathir, that Jho Low’s Malaysian passport was cancelled by the new Pakatan Harapan government. But it didn’t affect the fugitive, who possessed dozens of other passports, including one issued by the St Kitts and Nevis government. Cash-rich Low could buy or bribe his way in and out and move to another country using genuine or fake documentation.
The US-DOJ investigation results say that over US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from the 1MDB fund, with some of the money used to finance Hollywood films, and buy hotels, private jet, luxury Equanimity superyacht, Picasso paintings, jewellery and real estate. More than US$700 million (hence the infamous RM2.6 billion) from the fund landed in Najib’s bank account.
Even after his St Kitts and Nevis passport was “deactivated” due to public uproar, the fugitive continued to travel in style, evading authorities. There were speculations that he also has passports from Thailand, and even Australia and New Zealand. He reportedly owned real estate in Melbourne and Sydney, and some NZ$265 million worth of assets held in trusts in New Zealand.
Jho Low had freely visited Thailand at least five times in 2016-2018 despite an Interpol “Red Notice”. His late grandfather – Low Meng Tak – used to own iron-ore mining and liquor distilleries in the country. It was his grandfather’s vast businesses and investments in Thailand back in the 1960s and 1970s that saw the well-connected Low family own land and property there.
Armed with wealthy Thai friends and even very powerful politicians, Low was untouchable in Thailand. The Penang-born chubby Low reportedly had lived in Macau, Shanghai and Bangkok between March and April 2018 before being spotted in Phuket, from where he monitored Malaysia’s 14th General Election closely. When Najib lost, he immediately fled to Macau and Taiwan.
So, how could a “powerless” opposition Hishammuddin influence top Chinese leaders to track down and bring back Low to Malaysia when even the Government of Malaysia under Mahathir failed to use diplomatic channel to ask for help? Obviously, Hishammuddin’s offer to help was merely rhetoric and an empty promise to stop his own past corruptions from being investigated.
Months later, in March 2019, the racist man who used to threaten minority ethnic Chinese and Indians by brandishing and kissing the “Keris” (a Malay dagger) insisted his offer was still valid. He said – “My offer is still on. It’s not as easy as it involves third parties and governments. I want to find the truth about 1MDB. I’ve been consistent with that and I want to do my part.”
Of course, he made the offer – again – only after then-Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong revealed that Hishammuddin’s former aides in the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) were involved in a land-swap deal that caused losses amounting to RM500 million. The scandal involved 16 land swap projects involving 1,286 hectares of Mindef’s land worth RM4.756 billion.
A year later (March 2020), the legitimate and democratically voted Pakatan Harapan government collapsed. Mahathir’s lieutenant Muhyiddin Yassin betrayed his own government, working hand-in-glove with opposition UMNO and PAS Islamist party to form a backdoor Malay-centric government known as Perikatan Nasional. The crooks were brought back to power.
Hishammuddin Hussein, appointed as Foreign Minister, received praise from the empty vessel Inspector General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador. Welcoming the cousin of a crook, the top police chief ignorantly said the Royal Malaysia Police was confident the experienced Hishammuddin would continue to help bring back Low – the country’s most wanted man.
But despite his portfolio as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hishammuddin has done virtually nothing ever since. The last time he was grilled about the status of the fugitive was in November 2020. When asked by the opposition in Parliament, he cooked up a new excuse – Low can only be brought home if the police are able to provide his exact location in China.
That was as good as saying the police will not be able to solve a crime if the public is unable to pinpoint the exact hideout of bank robbers. Essentially, the useless Hishammuddin Hussein was saying that his ministry would sit on its hands until the Royal Malaysia Police can tell the approximate latitude and longitude of Jho Low’s current hiding place.
The hilarious part – it was Hishammuddin who bragged and promised back in Oct 2018 that he was willing “to go to the ends of the earth” to look for Low. Today, more than two years later, despite having returned to the government, albeit being a backdoor foreign minister, the same man somehow has lost interest in hunting down the mastermind behind 1MDB scandal.
Exactly why can’t the Foreign Minister leverage on his self-proclaimed “special personal connections” with Beijing now to track the criminal, when he could do so in 2018? With the highly secretive Chinese intelligence organization like the MSS (Ministry of State Security), artificial intelligence surveillance and facial recognition technology, do you think Beijing does not know the location of Low?
It is not the job of the local police force to tell its Chinese counterpart the precise location of Malaysian fugitive Low in China, Hong Kong or Macau. It’s the job of the Chinese authorities to help locate a foreign criminal or suspect when requested, provided both countries enjoy good relations, which Malaysia do enjoy based on Hishammuddin’s claim.
Asked when he would meet with Chinese leaders, Hishammuddin said in October 2018 – “Soon. I have been working on that already. We want justice. We want closure. And if it is true that he is in China, then I’ll use the networking that I have to ensure that he comes back and faces justice. Personally, I want to see an end to the 1MDB issue. We need to get justice and we want an end to the issue.”
News agency Al Jazeera last reported Low, dubbed the “Billion Dollar Whale” by the Wall Street Journal, to be hiding in a house owned by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party in Macau since February 2018. And the crook was able to travel around the world with little resistance due to “high-level government assistance”.
It’s amazing that while Najib and even Goldman Sachs have been brought down, fugitive Low continues to fly from Bangkok to Dubai, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Ahmedabad, Grenada and whatnot. It’s humiliating that Beijing appears to value Jho Low more than Hishammuddin Hussein. What happened to the China-Malaysia bilateral ties under Muhyiddin regime? – Finance Twitter