Malaysian police said Wednesday they have filed new criminal charges against fugitive financier Low Taek Jho and four others over the multibillion-dollar looting of state investment fund 1MDB.
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Low is wanted for his alleged role as the mastermind in a massive money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from the indebted 1MDB fund. He remains at large but maintains his innocence. Malaysian authorities charged Low and his father with money laundering in August. Last month, U.S. prosecutors charged Low and two former Goldman Sachs bankers with conspiracy to launder 1MDB money.
Malaysian police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said Low and four others, mostly former 1MDB employees, were charged Tuesday with 13 new money laundering and criminal breach of trust offenses involving losses of $1.17 billion of 1MDB funds.
He said Wednesday that arrest warrants have been issued for the five, who have fled Malaysia. If they are found in any country, the government will request their extradition so they can face charges in a Malaysian court, Fuzi said in a statement.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak started the 1MDB fund when he took power in 2009 to promote economic development but it accumulated billions in debts, and is being investigated in the U.S. and several other countries. Anger over the huge scale of the scandal led to the shocking election ouster of Najib's coalition, and ushered in the first change of power since the country's independence from Britain in 1957.
The new government reopened a probe into 1MDB that was stifled under Najib's rule. Najib and his wife have been charged with multiple counts of corruption in the scandal, and have criticized the charges as political vengeance. His lawyer, his former deputy, two ex-senior government officials and a former chief state minister have also been charged with graft.
Fuzi said Low, 36, was charged with five counts of money laundering involving transfers totaling $1.03 billion into a Swiss bank account between September 2009 and October 2011. Low and his aide, Eric Tan Kim Loong, face two more money laundering charges for receiving $126 million in a Singapore-based bank account, he said.
1MDB's former lawyer, Jasmine Loo Ai Swan, its ex-business development director, Casey Tang Keng Chee and former finance director Terence Geh Choh Heng were also charged.
A spokesman for Low, in a statement issued through his lawyers, slammed the new charges against him as a "continuation of the trial by media and political reprisals" by Malaysia's new government.
"Mr. Low maintains his innocence. As has been previously stated, Mr. Low will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and there is no independent legal process," the statement said, alleging that Low cannot get a fair trial in Malaysia.