Jho Low capture frustrated by 'dishonest' foreign authorities: Malaysia's police chief

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

Malaysia's police chief says his promise to bring fugitive financier Low Taek Jho back to the Southeast Asian nation to face justice by Christmas will not be fulfilled due to "dishonest" foreign authorities.

"In bilateral ties with police in other countries, we expect honesty in terms of co-operation. There must be a spirit of reciprocity. But this is where I'm disappointed. I expected honest co-operation. But there has been no honesty," police inspector-general Abdul Hamid Bador told local media on Monday.

He insisted that he would continue these efforts, and was "not resting".

Low is seen as a central figure in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) global corruption scandal that saw billions siphoned from a sovereign wealth fund.

Abdul Hamid last month said Low was taking refuge on an island with which Malaysia had previously co-operated on police matters, and that the fugitive was enjoying protection from state authorities, describing Low as "hiding like a chicken".

Low, who is wanted in several jurisdictions, has been on the lam for over a year. He is believed to have been hopping from one nation to another to evade the authorities while the man the Malaysian government has pinpointed as his co-conspirator - former premier Najib Razak - is on trial for more than 40 counts of graft and abuse of power.

The pilfered funds - totalling some US$4.5 billion according to the United States and up to US$7 billion according to the administration of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - were allegedly used to fund Hollywood films, purchase designer jewellery and handbags as well as paintings by Monet and Basquiat, and throw A-list celebrity parties.

Low's US$250 million superyacht Equanimity - which has since been seized, sold and renamed Tranquillity by its new owners - was also allegedly bought with the funds.

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Low has maintained that he is avoiding his home country of Malaysia as he believes he will not receive a fair trial, accusing Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan government of being biased against him.

Low was long thought to have been hiding out in China, although more recently it was discovered that he owned a now-revoked Cypriot passport received through an investment-for-citizenship scheme. The Caribbean island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis has also revoked Low's passport.

It is also believed that the financier is circulating through the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and his spokespeople have said that he is in a country that "acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights" - a statement that came soon after Low in October caved to the US Department of Justice and agreed to return assets worth over US$700 million, including a private jet.

Meanwhile, disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak's fortunes continue to worsen amid the 1MDB fallout.

At the Monday press conference, police chief Abdul Hamid announced that the ousted leader might be summoned as part of investigations into the 2006 murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, which have been revived after one of her killers - currently on death row - filed an explosive statutory declaration in his bid for a retrial, claiming that Najib had delivered the "kill order".

Former policeman Azilah Hadri claimed Najib had ordered him to "arrest and destroy" Altantuya in October 2006, when the politician was the deputy prime minister and defence minister. He said Najib had described her as a "foreign spy" and a "threat to national security".

Najib has vehemently denied these claims, even going so far as to make a formal Islamic oath before hundreds of Muslims earlier this week, avowing that he had "never ordered any individual to kill a Mongolian national named Altantuya Shaariibuu".

"I have not known or met the deceased. If I am lying, then may Allah curse me," he said during the oath-taking.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.