KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is seeking to arrest financier Low Taek Jho, believed to be residing abroad, over his involvement in a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad confirmed on Friday (Jun 8).
Low, popularly known as Jho Low, was regarded as close to former premier Najib Razak and his family, and is seen as a central figure in the 1MDB scandal, which is the subject of multi-billion-dollar money laundering investigations underway in Malaysia and around the world.
"We are trying to arrest Jho Low, but he is not in the country, and we don't have extradition rights in the country where he is staying," Mahathir told reporters.
He did not say which country Low was in.
On Thursday, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) issued a notice for Low and Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, a director of former 1MDB unit SRC International, to contact the commission immediately to help in its investigation. Low, through his lawyers, said he would cooperate.
MACC deputy chief commissioner (Operations) Azam Baki confirmed on Friday that both Low and Nik Faisal will face legal action if they fail to appear before the agency.
He said there was no excuse for them to not turn up to facilitate investigations.
"I refuse to comment on what action can be taken against both of them. As far as I know, they cannot give any excuses and must present themselves.
"As such, MACC urges them to come forward to assist in the investigation into the case," he told the Bernama news agency.
The MACC was also seeking assistance from authorities in countries where Low was believed to be staying, a source told reporters, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Low advised on investments and negotiated deals for 1MDB, though he never held any official role in the fund.
Warrants were also being prepared for Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs Group banker, and 1MDB's ex-chief Shahrol Halmi, the source said.
1MDB was founded by Najib in 2009 and is the subject of money-laundering probes in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
The US Department of Justice has alleged that more than US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, and about US$700 million of that went to Najib's personal bank accounts.
Najib has denied wrongdoing.
Empowered by a new government elected last month, the agency has relaunched a probe into why US$10.6 million from SRC was transferred into Najib's bank account.
Anti-graft agents have questioned both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, following his shock election defeat last month to former mentor-turned-foe Mahathir.
Goldman Sachs had helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion in three bond sales in 2012 and 2013 to invest in energy projects and real estate to boost the Malaysian economy.
Instead, more than US$2.5 billion raised from those bonds was misappropriated and used to buy artwork, luxury properties in New York and London, and to pay off gambling debts in Las Vegas, the US Justice Department has alleged.