By Hadi Azmi
Lawyers for fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho said Thursday he would assist the country’s anti-graft body in its investigation of the massive 1MDB scandal after it ordered him to present himself for questioning.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) issued a statement ordering him and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the director of 1MDB subsidiary SRC International, to contact it immediately to assist in its investigation.
Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, was made aware through the media reports that MACC was ordering him to contact the agency.
“Following this, Mr. Low immediately instructed his lawyers to make contact with the MACC today with respect to offering such assistance,” Robin Rathmell, an attorney with the international law firm Kobre & Kim, said in a statement Thursday.
Meanwhile, MACC has questioned another SRC director who had been sought as part of its investigation into the scandal at the state investment 1Malaysia Development Berhad, BenarNews has learned.
Suboh Md Yassin, who disappeared in 2015, discussed how 2.6 billion ringgit (U.S. $650 million) was syphoned from SRC into two personal bank accounts of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, a MACC official said.
“Suboh is in the country,” Deputy Commissioner Azam Baki told Benar. “MACC had interviewed him last week.”
Jho Low, Nik Faisal and Suboh were believed to have left Malaysia after failing to appear before MACC on Aug. 22, 2015, to assist with its investigation.
Suboh and Nik Faisal were shareholders of Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd, one of two companies allegedly used to transfer the SRC funds to Najib’s accounts, according to reports.
Nik Faisal allegedly was a close associate of Jho Low and a middle man among a construction company UBG Berhad, 1MDB and Petro Saudi in channeling $260 million, which was siphoned from 1MDB in 2010 to buy stakes in UBG.
The initial investigation into SRC ended abruptly in 2015 after Najib dismissed Attorney General Gani Patail who was preparing a case to prosecute. Gani’s replacement, Apandi Ali, who was handpicked by Najib, cleared the former prime minister of any wrongdoing in regard to 1MDB in January 2016.
Najib, who was defeated in his quest for a third term as prime minister last month, and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been questioned by MACC since his successor Mahathir Mohamad took office.
Their appearances followed searches of their home, his former office and other residences where police said they seized suitcases containing nearly $29 million in cash and expensive items, along with 284 boxes containing luxury handbags.
Malaysia has asked Interpol to assist it in tracking down Jho Low and Nik Faisal, whose whereabouts are unknown. Bloomberg news service reported Thursday that MACC had issued arrest warrants for the pair.
“They are super important to the investigation,” Azam said, adding that the investigation would be considered incomplete without their statements.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said authorities had sufficient information that Jho Low was among the main criminals behind the 1MDB scandal.
U.S. justice officials have described the case as “the worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times,” pointing out that more than $4.5 billion (17.9 billion ringgit) was stolen from the fund from its inception by Najib in 2009 until its advisory board was dissolved in 2016.
In court documents seen by BenarNews, the U.S. Justice Department accused Jho Low of laundering more than $400 million stolen from 1MDB through acquisitions of properties in California, New York and London, a jet purchased for $35 million and a mega-yacht estimated to be worth $250 million.
“Some people ask me why Jho Low is not arrested because information has been gathered. I say let’s delay a little, but there are quarters who don’t want to wait, they hope stern action can be taken not within today, but yesterday,” the home minister said.
“I did not say that I want to give priority to regulations and the law, but in cases that are clear, stern action must be taken immediately according to the penal code or law on corruption,” he told home ministry staff during a weekly meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital.