JAKARTA – A businessman alleged to have aided Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak siphon millions from a state development fund has fled the country as an Interpol warrant was issued for his arrest.
Mr Najib, who has pleaded not guilty to three counts of criminal breach of trust and one of abuse of power, is alleged to been involved in the laundering of millions from the state fund he established – 1MDB.
Malaysian authorities said that Jho Low, a financier who US prosecutors claim was a central figure in the looting of the fund, had fled the country.
He was last seen in Macau, but has since left, said Malaysian national police chief, Mohammad Fuzi Harun.
When Malaysian authorities sent a team of investigators to Hong Kong, he had already travelled to Macau, Mr Fuzi said.
Malaysia cancelled Mr Low’s passport but Mr Fuzi said the businessman could have several travel documents. Interpol has issued an arrest notice for Mr Low at Malaysia’s request.
A friend of Mr Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, Mr Low had no official role at 1MDB but had considerable influence over its dealings and was often in contact with Mr Najib, according to the US Justice Department.
Prosecutors in the US believe Mr Low was a central figure in laundering at least $4.5 billion from the fund. A number of countries have launched investigations into the looting of 1MDB.
Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber, after meeting in Kuala Lumpur with his Malay counterpart, said yesterday the scandal could involve an estimated $7 billion, far greater than the US estimates.
Switzerland has initiated proceedings against six people, not including Mr Najib, and two private banks, relating to the 1MDB fraud.
Dr Mahathir Mohammad, whose election victory in May triggered the prosecution of Mr Najib, has said Mr Low has a “lot of information” about money still missing from the fund. “He would be a good witness,” Dr Mahathir said last week.
Prosecutors in the US claim Mr Low had used money from the fund to pay for jewels for Mr Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and properties for her son, Mr Aziz. Mr Najib’s family deny wrongdoing and claim the investigation into their affairs is politically motivated.
Mr Najib’s supporters claim that he is being victimised by a vengeful opposition and claim the trial, due to start early next year, will not be fair.
However, Ooi Kee Beng, director of the Penang Institute, a Malaysian think-tank, said: “With all minds wondering if it can stay true to its own pronouncements about rule of law and good governance, the trial will be a fair one, and with four charges against him, at least one will stick.”Show