Frankly Speaking 1MDB fugitive Jho Low must face charges in Malaysia

Low, who continues to maintain innocence, is likely to use whatever resources he has to cut new deals to avoid going to jail. 

(The Edge) – Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low — the fugitive who financed the 2013 Holly­wood film The Wolf of Wall Street with money siphoned from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) — made global headlines last week for having struck a deal with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) on two civil forfeitures worth more than US$100 million (RM471.8 million) in assets, including artworks by Claude Monet and Andy Warhol.

Given reports and leaked phone conversations of Low’s previous attempts at striking a deal with the Malaysian government to avoid going to jail, news that a “global settlement” had been reached with the DoJ last Wednesday (June 26) struck a raw nerve among those still waiting for him to be brought to justice.

The DoJ did say the latest settlement agreement with Low and unnamed members of his family “does not release any entity or individual from filed or potential criminal charges”.

Still, one cannot help but wonder how deals can be struck between the DoJ and a fugitive wanted by US law enforcement officials. Low, who has two Interpol Red Notices issued against him but has managed to evade law enforcement officers globally for more than half a decade, had in 2020 struck a deal with US prosecutors to recoup nearly US$700 million in assets, which included real estate in New York and London. This was on top of other asset seizures that included the 2014 Oceanco-built superyacht Equanimity, which was renamed Tranquility in 2019 when it was sold to the Genting Group.

In March 2023, former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of helping his former boss Tim Leissner embezzle money from 1MDB. Leissner, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to bribery and money laundering charges related to 1MDB, was fined but has so far avoided a prison sentence possibly because of his cooperation in investigations.

As the “Billion Dollar Whale”, however, Low is on a different level than the investment bankers. Even former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is serving a prison sentence and facing ongoing trials related to 1MDB.

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