(July 11): A fugitive Malaysian businessman at the centre of a global corruption probe that helped bring down his country’s prime minister has fled Macau and is understood to be in mainland China.
The exact whereabouts of Low Taek Jho – who had earlier skipped Hong Kong for the world’s richest casino hub while facing an Interpol arrest warrant – are unclear.
But sources have told the Post that Low, 37, is now on the mainland, having travelled from the former Portuguese enclave either by car or private jet.
The playboy businessman is accused of corruption, bribery and money laundering by law enforcement agencies in several countries in connection with the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) financial scandal.
Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said on Wednesday that the authorities in Kuala Lumpur had received an email from their Macau counterparts on July 9, telling them that Low had left the gaming hub.
“The email did not specify when Low left Macau. It is hard to trace him as he is believed to be using multiple passports,” he said.
However, a security source in Macau told the Post: “It is almost without doubt safe to say that Low is now on the mainland. In fact, that is probably one of the reasons he came to Macau in the first place.”
Next month, newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to visit China amid discussions between the two nations over major China-backed investments in his country.
On Tuesday, the gaming hub’s Judiciary Police confirmed that Interpol Macau, a subdivision of Interpol Beijing, had received “the request of the relevant country (Malaysia)” regarding Low, whom the Post revealed several days ago had slipped out of Hong Kong with his family and was hiding out in Macau.
In a brief statement, the Judiciary Police told the Macau News Agency on Tuesday that they were “verifying the content of the request”.
The latest twist in the scandal follows weeks of claim and counterclaim over the fugitive financier, his role in the 1MDB scandal and an international hunt to track him down and secure his arrest.
It has also sparked a war of words between the Macau authorities and their Malaysian counterparts, who have accused officials in the casino town of making “deeply regrettable’’ public statements about their pursuit of Low, according to reports in the Malaysian media.
Over the weekend, the Post reported that Low had been living with his family and entourage in luxury apartments in Hong Kong’s upscale Pacific Place development.
Local police are understood to not have acted on an outstanding Interpol red notice warrant out for Low. Under international rules, Hong Kong police are not obliged to execute a red notice warrant if they do not receive a direct request from the country seeking the subject of that notice.
On Monday, Malaysian politician Lim Kit Siang criticised former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak – who is facing trial at home on charges linked to the 1MDB scandal – for not sending out a notice for Low’s arrest while the suspect was in Hong Kong despite the Interpol warrant.
After the businessman had left Hong Kong, Malaysia’s inspector-general of police said that Low – whose Malaysian passport has been cancelled but who also holds a passport from the tiny Caribbean island nation of St Kitts and Nevis – was in the casino hub, but police were unable to extract him due to the lack of an extradition agreement.
The 1MDB scandal saw financing for Malaysian economic development projects allegedly used for other purposes, most particularly for personal enrichment of the individuals involved.
It has prompted multiple investigations worldwide, including a wide-ranging Swiss probe into two former 1MDB officials and against persons unknown on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, as well as allegations of misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.