KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — The fresh investigation into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal under Pakatan Harapan has “energised” the US Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal investigation of the state investment firm, a source told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The WSJ report said the focus of the investigations has shifted to the alleged mastermind of the financial scandal, Malaysian mogul Low Taek Jho, whose location is currently rumoured to be in Taiwan, Macau, Shanghai and Bangkok.
Turning from asset seizure to focus on a criminal probe, an unnamed source familiar with the case told the WSJ that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents have travelled worldwide to interview witnesses, with Low — commonly known as Jho Low — as their main target.
The report said an FBI spokesman declined to comment.
Up until the 14th general election, Low was said to be in contact with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, directly and through people in his inner circle, said sources familiar with their relationship.
The sources added Low’s close ties with Najib had made him feel untouchable.
“In China and around Asia, Low appeared to enjoy a protected status even after the scandal broke, traveling with bodyguards he said were provided by Beijing, say people familiar with his movements.
“He carries more than six phones, using each for a different set of contacts around the world, the people say,” the report stated.
Prior to the elections, sources close to Low said he had remained unflappable, hosting a birthday celebration for an associate, Eric Tan, in February at a Macau hotel, which were attended by hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz and singer Nicole Scherzinger.
However, sources told the report Low had left Thailand since Barisan Nasional’s unexpected general election defeat and had “struck a more careful posture”.
On Friday, Council of Eminent Persons member Tun Daim Zainuddin said he would like for Low to come home to Malaysian and assist with the 1MDB probe.
Citing Low as the best witness to testify the 1MDB case, Daim claimed to know the whereabouts of the scandal-plagued businessman who is known for partying with high-flying socialites and Hollywood darlings.
Low was instrumental in setting up the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) that was later repurposed as 1MDB.