Jho Low's passport should be revoked — Cyprus President

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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 5): Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said authorities should revoke the passport issued in September 2015 to Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low.

The President told Cyprus Mail on Monday that he stands firm on the revocation with the necessary probe carried out so that due process is followed to justify any revocations.

According to Cyprus Mail, when Anastasiades was asked about dodgy naturalisations granted to foreign investors, he noted that some of the cases "speak for themselves".

The president was reported to be engaging in damage control following the revelation surrounding Low, implicated in the scandal at 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which US and Malaysian prosecutors say was used to siphon out billions of dollars.

It added that the Malaysian authorities have withdrawn the Malaysian fugitive financier's passport, issued an arrest warrant and have sought help from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong.

Citing Politis, a daily Greek-language newspaper published in Cyprus, Cyprus Mail reported that Low came to Cyprus in September 2015, when he was not wanted at the time, and obtained the passport under the citizenship-by-investment scheme within days of investing in some property in Ayia Napa.

It said that Low had looked into getting a Cypriot passport in the spring of 2015 when 1MDB was being looked at by the Malaysian attorney-general.

Under passport criteria existing at the time, Low would have had to deposit €5 million in a Cypriot bank for three years and buy a permanent home worth €500,000. The newspaper stated that in June 2015, Low deposited a sum of €5.9 million in a Cypriot bank.

Politis said the company which undertook to complete the naturalisation of the then 34-year-old businessman, applied to a well-known audit firm in Nicosia asking them to prepare the relevant applications and to submit what was required by law.

"The audit firm, acting as broker handling Low's application, conducted due diligence on the Malaysian businessman," it said.

Politis said the checks were delegated to another Cyprus-based firm, which in turn farmed out the work to Thomson Reuters. The due diligence was completed in June 2015.

According to Cyprus Mail, passport brokers previously were expected to conduct background checks on their clients but were not obligated to disclose or submit them to the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of naturalisation.

Based on the report, until early 2018, the government would only verify whether the applicant had a clean criminal record.

"After that, the government began conducting its own (additional) screening, which consisted of accessing a database on individuals, available to corporations and to governments on a subscription basis," Cyprus Mail said.