The United States authorities are preparing to file criminal charges against Penang-born billionaire Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, for involvement in what they believe to be “one of the largest financial frauds in history”.
The Wall Street Journal quoted sources familiar with the probe as saying that the US prosecution’s plans involved filing criminal charges of wire fraud and money laundering against Low and potentially some of his associates.
The sources did not describe the potential timing for when the criminal charges would be filed.
The plan could also be changed or dropped as its investigations continue, the report added.
The sources said Low has been a focus of the criminal investigations and he was also portrayed in the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) civil asset-seizure lawsuits last July as central to an alleged plot to siphon billions of dollars from 1MDB.
On the civil suits which are proceeding separately from the criminal probe, WSJ quoted sources familiar with the matter as saying that the DOJ is currently seeking to add recently discovered Low’s family properties to the list of assets it is trying to seize, including a US$165 million, 300-foot, helipad-equipped yacht named Equanimity.
Among others, the assets include a luxury apartment in Paris and a London penthouse with views of Buckingham Palace.
According to the report, Low has since largely disappeared from public view.
He has deleted some email accounts, changed phones regularly and avoided being in the US, said people familiar with his movements.
The WSJ, however, noted that Low had struck a confident tone in a New Year message to his friends, posted on social messenger app WeChat.
“2016 was the Perfect Storm; but the calmness and resolve of our Captain, led his loyal Sailors who placed their lives with utmost trust in his leadership weathered the storm,” Low wrote in the WeChat message sighted by WSJ.
“The men and women that came out of the storm were not the same men that walk in.
“Through struggle, they established new strengths they never knew they collectively had,” he wrote as part of the message.
Low is now said to have been mainly living in China and Thailand after his bank accounts were frozen by several countries.
WSJ added that the yacht has been moored in Thai waters since last October while Low himself was said to be a long-term resident at the Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai.
According to the report, the Equanimity recently berthed for around 40 nights at the Ao Po Grand Marina in Phuket, Thailand, at a cost of about US$20,000, citing official records, and part of it was settled from an account at Bangkok Bank.
Malaysiakini is unable to independently verify the report.
‘Criminal case in Singapore’
Aside from the US, WSJ also quoted a person involved with 1MDB-linked investigations in Singapore as saying that a potential criminal case is being build against Jho Low.
“A Justice Department team has just finished a visit to Singapore to conduct interviews related to Mr Low and other aspects of the 1MDB matter,” reported WSJ quoting another two people familiar with the trip.
Any charges against Low could also increase pressure on (Malaysian prime minister) Najib Abdul Razak, said WSJ.
BN strategic communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan had previously confirmed that “MO1”, mentioned 36 times in the DOJ report, is Najib.
At the same time, the Umno minister also insisted that the DOJ had not revealed Najib’s name because he was not a part of its investigation.
WSJ said its latest attempts to contact Najib for comments were unsuccessful.
Local authorities have also cleared Najib of all wrongdoings linked to 1MDB.
Source : @ Malaysiakini