Dr Mahathir rejected immunity deal with Jho Low

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KUALA LUMPUR (June 14): Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has turned down Jho Low’s offer to drop his claim to more than a billion dollars in assets in exchange for immunity, Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported today.

WSJ reported that the alleged mastermind of possibly the world’s largest kleptocracy case had reached out to authorities in Malaysia, to offer his deal in return for immunity from criminal prosecution for alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB.

Dr Mahathir rejected the offer, which was communicated via an intermediary, WSJ reported.

Jho Low, who the US Justice Department alleges oversaw a scheme to steal US$4.5 billion from 1MDB between 2009 and 2015, is living in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, say people with knowledge of his movements.

Malaysia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China, but has been using backchannel communications with Beijing to seek Jho Low’s return to Malaysia, where last week authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, WSJ reported.

Jho Low had told associates earlier this year he felt safe because then Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak was protecting him, according to a person familiar with the matter, WSJ reported.

Najib who set up 1MDB in 2009 and allegedly received hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund has denied wrongdoing.

In an interview earlier on Thursday, Mahathir said that it would be legally difficult to absolve Jho Low of responsibility for the 1MDB scandal in return for his cooperation in tracking down where the money went, WSJ reported.

“I’m quite sure the kind of incentive he would readily accept is that he would not be prosecuted,” Mahathir said. “But we can’t do that. It’s against the law. The law does not provide for what the American law provides, plea bargaining and all that.”

The ultimate goal, Mahathir said, is for prosecutors to charge Najib if there is enough evidence to warrant it, but the process will take time. “Until they find concrete evidence that will stand up in a court of law, they won’t be able to do anything,” Mahathir said, WSJ reported.

Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, meanwhile, said in a separate interview that he was hopeful the full extent of the problems at 1MDB would soon be known.

“We were lucky we discovered this while we did,” Lim said. “We hope to know everything in the next couple of weeks.”