Malaysia Seeks Jho Low's Arrest After Money Laundering Charges

(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia charged fugitive financier Low Taek Jho with money laundering and said it’s seeking Interpol’s help to locate and arrest him, tightening the net around a central figure behind the alleged embezzlement of funds from state investment company 1MDB.

Low took part in laundering "proceeds of unlawful activity" when he received about $262 million, and transferred about 41 million euros and $141 million, charge sheets showed. His father -- Low Hock Peng -- was charged with transferring more than $56 million to him. The transactions took place between December 2013 and June 2014.

Low faces eight counts of money laundering while his father has one. Each carries a maximum fine of 5 million ringgit ($1.2 million), a jail term of as long as five years, or both. They were charged in absentia and their whereabouts aren’t publicly known.

“Warrants of arrest for both of them were issued by the court,” Commercial Crime Investigation Department Director Amar Singh said in a text message. The police also said it’s asking Interpol to publish a Red Notice -- a request to locate and provisionally arrest a person based on a valid national warrant -- against both.

1Malaysia Development Bhd., better known as 1MDB, is at the heart of a scandal which allegedly saw $4.5 billion misappropriated from the fund. Low, who previously said he did consulting work for 1MDB, is portrayed by some global investigators as the mastermind behind some of the schemes involving missing funds. He has been described as the “best witness” to provide information on alleged crimes at 1MDB.

A spokesman for Low, through his attorneys, said on Friday that the financier maintains his innocence and is confident he will be vindicated. The comments were made before police said Interpol’s assistance would be sought.

"Mr. Low is conferring with his lawyers regarding what legal action he can take to address this latest political reprisal, but he stands by his earlier statements," his spokesman said. "He will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and self-interest overrules legal process."

U.S. prosecutors had painted Low as a bon vivant and a central figure who set up shell companies and arranged the transfers of tens of millions of dollars to pay Malaysian government officials, while Singapore investigators have called him a “key person of interest.”

This is not the first set of criminal charges against Low. Singapore, whose financial system and banks were used as conduits for some of the illicit funds, filed charges against him in 2016 when it issued a warrant of arrest. The city state had also requested Interpol publish a red notice for Low in 2016.

The receipt and transfers of money by Low and his father were done through separate accounts at BSI Bank in Singapore, according to the charge sheets. Most of the funds were used to purchase Low’s $250 million super yacht Equanimity, the Edge newspaper said.

A Malaysia court on Friday granted the government and 1MDB permission to quickly sell the yacht, just weeks after taking possession of the vessel. The sale is expected to take place before the end of the year, their lawyers said.

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