Malaysia rejected 1MDB settlement offer from fugitive Jho Low earlier this year

Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia rejected 1MDB settlement offer from fugitive Jho Low earlier this year Protesters in Kuala Lumpur call for the arrest of Jho Low, portrayed as a pirate on this sign, for his alleged role in the theft of billions from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, April 14, 2018.
[Sadiq Asyraf/AP]

Malaysia’s attorney general has said that his office rejected fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low’s attempt to settle the notorious 1MDB criminal case against him earlier this year.  

Low Taek Jho, (better known as Jho Low), the subject of an international manhunt, is wanted for his role in the alleged embezzlement of billions of dollars from the sovereign state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.

Attorney General Idrus Harun, in a statement issued Saturday, didn’t give a reason for the rejection of Low’s offer or disclose the settlement amount offered by Low through his representatives, but a report in The Edge Markets Malaysia said it was 1.5 billion ringgit, or U.S. $337 million.

1MDB and four of its subsidiaries have sued Low for $3.78 billion, The Edge said.

“The AGC [Attorney General’s Chambers] confirms that Jho Low, through his representatives, has made attempts to engage with the Government of Malaysia for a settlement this year,” the attorney general said in the statement.

“In these attempts, Jho Low’s representatives met with agencies of the Government of Malaysia including the AGC. All offers for a settlement from Jho Low’s representatives were rejected by the AGC.”

A former attorney general, Mohamed Apandi Ali, whose tenure coincided with that of former Prime Minister and UMNO member Najib Razak, said in a statement to select media Saturday evening that he facilitated the meetings. The 1MDB scandal is said to have been the reason for UMNO’s defeat in the 2018 polls, the first electoral loss in more than 60 years for Malaysia’s grand old party.

Ali, also a member of UMNO (United Malays National Organization), the party that leads Malaysia’s ruling coalition, said he was approached by a Washington law firm Kobre & Kim at the end of May to arrange the meetings with the Attorney General’s offices, which he did.

BenarNews contacted Ali, who refused to comment and referred to his statement.

“I have already issued a written statement. That is sufficient. No need to expound the narrative further,” he told BenarNews via a text message.

In his statement, Ali said that at the meetings with the AGC, the government of Malaysia was represented by the attorney general and his officer, and a senior officer from the country’s anti-graft body.

He said the purpose of the meetings was to discuss the repatriation of funds allegedly siphoned by Low from 1MDB.

“All seemed to be working out well at the time the meetings were held, before it was aborted and called off by the AGC for reasons best known to them,” he said in the statement.

Low faces criminal charges in Malaysia and the U.S. for his role in the alleged embezzling through his relationship with former Prime Minister Najib.

Najib has been convicted for corruption in one 1MDB-linked case and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The conviction is up for final appeal, which will be heard next month. A second case is ongoing.

Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors allege that at least $4.5 billion (18.8 billion ringgit) was stolen from 1MDB in what they described as the “worst kleptocracy scandal in recent times.”

Facilitator’s motives questioned

On Sunday, a federal opposition lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh questioned Ali’s motive.

“It is strange that the very person who was once interested in bringing back Low to face charges in Malaysia is now involved in settlement negotiations with him,” he said in a statement.

“[Ali] should clear the air soonest to avoid unnecessary speculation that may arise from such negotiations.”

Singh said Ali should make clear whether the deal was intended to see criminal charges against Low dropped.

“Any attempt to settle Low’s criminal cases in exchange for a sum of money can be a form of corruption and Apandi [Ali] must disclose if he was informed by Low’s representatives that this was Low’s intention,” Singh said.

Singh added that Ali was supposed to demand Low’s surrender instead of representing him, as he was the attorney general at the height of the 1MDB scandal and had cleared former Prime Minister Najib of any wrongdoing in the case.

Meanwhile in April, a U.S. jury found a former Goldman Sachs banker, Malaysian citizen Roger Ng, guilty of all charges tied to a scheme to steal billions from 1MDB.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Ng, joined by another former Goldman Sachs executive Timothy Leissner, Low and others, conspired to steal more than $2.7 billion from 1MDB.

Leissner had pleaded guilty in 2018 to two charges related to money laundering and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million. He had admitted to bribing officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates to procure bond deals for Goldman Sachs.

In October 2019, the United States announced a settlement with Low and his family over assets valued at $700 million which it said were purchased using funds misappropriated from 1MDB.

The settlement, along with previous forfeitures, has resulted in the recovery of more than $1 billion, which Washington said it was returning to Malaysia.

The assets included a business entity related to the Park Lane Hotel in New York, as well as a super-yacht, valued at over $120 million.


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