KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police on Friday filed criminal charges against fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, who is wanted in connection with a multi-billion-dollar money laundering scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Low, popularly known as Jho Low, is regarded as having been close to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and has been identified by investigators in Malaysia and the United States as a key figure in the 1MDB case.
He was slapped with eight charges of money laundering at a court in the administrative capital Putrajaya, Datuk Seri Amar Singh, the director of police commercial crime investigations told Reuters on Friday.
Low's father Low Hock Peng was booked for one charge under the same money laundering act, he said.
"Warrants of arrest for both of them were issued by the Court," Singh said.
A spokesman for Low said in a statement sent by email that Low maintains his innocence and is confident he will be vindicated.
"Mr. Low and his lawyers request that the public keep an open mind until all of the evidence comes to light. This has been a case of “trial-by-media” from the start, and unfortunately, the circus continues," the statement said.
Low and his family's whereabouts are unknown, but Malaysian lawmakers and enforcement officials have said the 38-year-old financier is believed to be living in China. Some media reports say he may be in Abu Dhabi.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Singapore authorities had previously issued arrest warrants for Low.
Malaysia has also applied for an Interpol red notice to seek assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong to detain Low.
Low has said previously that he will not present himself to any country where his guilt has been predetermined.
Investigations into 1MDB were reopened after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad returned to power in a stunning election victory in May, ending Najib's decade-long rule.
Last month, Najib was charged for money laundering and abuse of power in connection with funds transferred from a former unit of 1MDB. Najib has denied wrongdoing.
The DOJ says over $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, with some of the money used to buy a private jet, a superyacht, Picasso paintings, jewellery and real estate.
Earlier this month, the $250 million superyacht Equanimity, which the DOJ says was bought by Jho Low, arrived in Kuala Lumpur after it was seized by authorities.
Attempts are also underway to impound Low's $35 million private jet that was grounded in Singapore last year.—REUTERS © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd