Malaysian authorities said yesterday that they have arrested a former close associate of the fugitive financier Jho Low, the alleged ringleader of the multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal.
Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution told reporters that Jasmine Loo, a former lawyer for the ill-fated investment fund, was arrested on July 7 in Kuala Lumpur and remanded by police the next day for further questioning.
Saifuddin said that Loo, through her lawyer, had agreed to cooperate with the police investigation in the multibillion-dollar globe-spanning corruption case. “Loo will assist the police and the Malaysian government (to) investigate the 1MDB case,” he said, according to Channel News Asia.
Loo, who has been wanted since 2018 under an Interpol “red notice,” is believed to be a close associate of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, who is wanted for his key role in the pilfering of the 1MDB state fund.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, Loo, who reportedly shared Low’s taste for the high life, is believed to have fled Malaysia ahead of the general election in May 2018 along with a number of other associates of Low. The polls brought to power the reformist Pakatan Harapan alliance, which immediately reopened investigations that Najib had obstructed while in power. During yesterday’s press conference, Nasution did not make clear how and when Loo returned to Malaysia.
U.S. and Malaysian investigators have estimated that around $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund between 2009 and 2014 by high-level officials of the fund and their associates. Malaysian authorities claim that at least $4.3 billion more is unaccounted for.
The 1MDB case has prompted an ever-ramifying investigation and a host of legal cases that continue to work their way through the Malaysian court system. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who set up the 1MDB fund in 2009 shortly after coming to office, is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for his illegal receipt of 42 million ringgit from SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB. He is also facing numerous other charges related to the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.
At the same time, Malaysian authorities are struggling to locate the dozens of 1MDB fugitives that scattered into hiding before and after the 2018 election, many of them in China, as detailed in this recent investigation by Mary Ann Jolley of Al Jazeera.
At the top of the list is Low, who denies any involvement in the pillaging of the 1MDB fund. For several years, it has been rumored that he has been hiding in China, and the Malaysian government announced in May that they believed he was hiding in Macau. In recent months, Anwar’s administration has ramped up its efforts to repatriate him to Malaysia so he can face legal charges for his role in the corruption scandal.
In May, Anwar revealed that his government was negotiating with authorities overseas to secure Low’s return. The same month, Malaysian authorities arrested Kee Kok Thiam, a Malaysian associate of Low and fellow suspect in the 1MDB case, who they said was deported from Macau for overstaying his visa.
Whether this latest arrest brings Kuala Lumpur any closer to netting the fugitive financier is anybody’s guess, but it is yet another testament to the full vast extent of the 1MDB theft.