1MDB Update: Extradition move for Jho Low next step for Malaysia

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 27, 2018 - September 02, 2018.
-A +A

MALAYSIA finally moved against Jho Low, or Low Taek Jho, with the filing of criminal charges against him, albeit in absentia, on Aug 24.

The charges for money laundering were brought against Low and his father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng by the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) of the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

The court papers were registered with the Sessions Court in Putrajaya and warrants of arrest for both men were also sought.

Legal sources say the action taken will pave the way for the next move, which is to seek an extradition of the two men from wherever they are now hiding. Under Malaysian law, the trial of those accused of a crime cannot proceed unless they appear in the dock for the court to take a plea.

“With the registration of the charges, the next step is to seek an extradition,” says one legal source, who described the action today as a significant move.

Jho Low and his family are believed to be currently in China or Abu Dhabi.

The 38-year-old is a close associate of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and family and had exerted great influence in the running of 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) although he held no official position there.

In previous media interviews, Jho Low had denied allegations that he stole money from 1MDB, claiming that he inherited his wealth. But those who know the Low family, who were based in Penang, say they never had such wealth and that at the peak of his corporate career, the elder Low had a minority stake in a small-sized company, MWE Holdings Bhd.

Najib, who founded 1MDB, was ousted when his Barisan Nasional coalition was surprisingly defeated in May amid widespread anger over the financial woes at 1MDB, which is saddled with over RM40 billion in debt, most of which is said to have been stolen.

According to the charge sheets, Jho Low was slapped with eight charges under Section 4 (1) (a) of the Anti- Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act, 2001 (Act 613). Three of the charges were for receiving money and the remaining five were for transferring the cash.

His father faces one charge of transferring US$56 million to his son.

The total sum involved is around US$261 million for receipt of money and US$196 million for transferring of the cash — all done through separate accounts at BSI Bank in Singapore from December 2013 to June 2014. Most of the cash was used for the US$250 million purchase of the superyacht Equanimity, which Malaysia seized two weeks ago.

The details of the charges against Jho Low are as follows:

1)     On or about Dec 26, 2013, he engaged in money laundering in that he received monies amounting to US$62.299 million, being the proceeds of unlawful activity from the account of DLA Piper US LLP in Citibank NA bearing number 2185115 into his account at BSI Bank Limited in Singapore bearing number 6C02328A.

2)     On or about Feb 4, 2014, he engaged in money laundering in that he received US$56.449 million, being the proceeds of unlawful activity from the account (6C02423A) of Low Hock Peng at BSI Singapore into his BSI account (6C02328A).

3)     On or about June 3, 2014, he engaged in money laundering in that he received monies amounting to US$142 million being from proceeds from unlawful activity from the account (41153595.2001) of Alpha Synergy Limited in BSI Lugano Switzerland into his BSI Singapore account (6C02328A).

4)     On or about Jan 7, 2014, he engaged in money laundering in that he transferred monies amounting to 19.9 million euros, being proceeds from unlawful activity from his account (6C02328B) in BSI Singapore into the account (0204420317251001) of World View Limited, Cayman Islands, in Caledonian Bank Ltd.

5)     On or about Feb 5, 2014, he engaged in money laundering in that he transferred monies amounting to 1.0 million euros, being proceeds from unlawful activity from his account (6C02328B) in BSI Singapore into the account (0204420317251001) of World View Limited, Cayman Islands, in Caledonian Bank Ltd.

6)     On or about Feb 18, 2014, he engaged in money laundering in that he transferred monies amounting to 17.5 million euros, being proceeds from unlawful activity from his account (6C02328B) in BSI Singapore into the account (0204420317251001) of World View Limited, Cayman Islands, in Caledonian Bank Ltd.

7)     On or about April 2, 2014 he engaged in money laundering in that he transferred monies amounting to 2.7 million euros, being proceeds from unlawful activity from his account (6C02328B) in BSI Singapore into the account (0204420317251001) of World View Limited, Cayman Islands, in Caledonian Bank Ltd.

8)     On or about June 3, 2014, he engaged in money laundering in that he transferred monies amounting to US$140.636 million, being proceeds from unlawful activity from his account (6C02328A) in BSI Singapore into the account (0204420317251001) of World View Limited, Cayman Islands, in Caledonian Bank Ltd.

Legal sources said although the money was laundered through Singapore, anti-money laundering laws that were strengthened and harmonised globally after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US are very sweeping and allow authorities in any jurisdiction to take action. In the case of 1MDB, Malaysia’s grounds to act are strong because the alleged laundering involved money that belonged to a government entity.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that as much as US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014 by Low and his co-conspirators, including officials from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

1MDB had entered into deals with PetroSaudi International of Saudi and two Abu Dhabi state-owned entities — International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) and Aabar Investments PJS. It was through these transactions that money was misappropriated.

The US DOJ has filed civil suits to seize assets, which included luxury apartments and hotels as well as expensive art, bought with 1MDB money by Low and others.

Singapore said on July 11, 2018, (two months after Malaysia’s elections in May) that it had requested Hong Kong authorities to arrest Jho Low as far back as April 2016, but this was rejected. Singapore police had never previously made public its attempt to get Jho Low and that it had filed charges against him.

It came out with the July 11 statement only after the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong quoted a police spokesman as saying that it had never received any request from Singapore or Malaysia to arrest Jho Low, who was known to be shuttling between China, Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand in the past few years.

Singapore authorities have jailed a few bankers and closed two banks — BSI and Falcon — who had Jho Low as their client. Authorities in Switzerland have also acted against the two banks and are probing several individuals they said were involved in the fraud.

During the trial of former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, Singapore prosecutors produced evidence of how 1MDB money was laundered through what they called “layering”, with cash transferred from accounts of Jho Low to his father and then back to him. This was to avoid detection of the origins of stolen money.

The total sum transferred between father and son via their accounts at BSI Singapore was around US$335 million, according to US and Singapore investigators.

Najib last month pleaded not guilty to several counts of money laundering and corruption involving money that belonged to one-time 1MDB subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd. He is also being investigated for receiving in his Malaysian bank account US$680 million that originated from 1MDB, via an account controlled by Jho Low at Falcon Bank in Singapore.

Najib has claimed that the money was a donation from an unnamed Saudi royal and that he had returned most of it. DOJ investigators alleged that the US$680 million originated from money raised by 1MDB through bonds that were sold by Goldman Sachs.

News reports have said that the DOJ is investigating the role of the US investment bank in the scam. Singapore has banned Tim Leissner, the then Goldman executive who had worked closely with Jho Low when handling the 1MDB business, from working in the city state.

 

 

Save by subscribing to us for your print and/or digital copy.

P/S: The Edge is also available on Apple's AppStore and Androids' Google Play.