Frankly Speaking: No to any settlement that allows Jho Low to escape prosecution

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 13, 2020 - April 19, 2020.
Frankly Speaking: No to any settlement that allows Jho Low to escape prosecution
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It is a wonder that in the midst of the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, fugitive Jho Low and his favourite newspaper, The Straits Times (ST) of Singapore, are still at their spinning game.

Their latest tale is that Malaysian government officials who were handling the 1MDB matter under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government of prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had messed up, and this makes it very unlikely that we will get any money from Goldman Sachs or the International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC) of Abu Dhabi.

Here is what ST published in an article on April 9, headlined, “Missteps and legitimacy issues undermine Malaysia’s global recovery of 1MDB funds”.

“All of this leaves Malaysia in an awkward situation as the US and other parties directly involved in the 1MDB matter — including fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, a central player in the scandal, the Abu Dhabi government and Goldman Sachs — push ahead with negotiations to reach a full resolution over the civil forfeiture suits and the ongoing criminal indictments that began in mid-2016.”

Recall that some months back, Jho Low, as reported by ST, announced that he had reached a global settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on some aspects of the 1MDB fraud, which the DOJ described as the world’s biggest case of kleptocracy.  It has been reported by media in the US, including The Wall Street Journal, that Goldman Sachs was also negotiating a global settlement with the DOJ.

And we will bet our last dollar that both Goldman Sachs and its co-conspirator Jho Low would want escaping prosecution in Malaysia to be part of any global settlement put together by the DOJ.

But why should Malaysia agree to it?

Goldman Sachs is believed to have offered Malaysia US$1.0 billion. That is a pittance, considering that it was party to the three bonds worth US$6.5 billion that was scammed from Malaysia.

ST reported that the then adviser to PM Mahathir, Tun Daim Zainuddin, found out in January that “Malaysia had pulled out of a so-called global settlement initiative led by the DOJ to hammer out a solution with the counter-parties, comprising Low, Goldman Sachs and Abu Dhabi’s state-owned International Petroleum Investment Company, which guaranteed the 1MDB bonds amounting to US$6.5 billion”.

Daim had advised the Mahathir government to reconsider its position because the legal cases can go either way, reported ST. It went on to say that unless Malaysia is readmitted to the DOJ plan, the prospects for the 1MDB recovery effort look grim.

Are ST and Jho Low putting pressure on the Perikatan Nasional government to do a settlement? If ST’s claim that Daim had given such advice is correct, we say kudos to Mahathir and the government officials under PH for not agreeing with it. Neither should the current government under Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

There can be a settlement but not one that returns a pittance compared with what was stolen. Neither should there be any settlement that allows Goldman Sachs and Jho Low to escape prosecution in Malaysia.

This must be pursued, no matter how long it takes us to do it. And no matter how many times Jho Low uses ST of Singapore to spin for him.

Perhaps, ST should suggest that the authorities in Singapore also do a settlement with Jho Low? The last time we checked, he is also a wanted man in ST’s home country.

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