1MDB investigators file charges against wanted Malaysian Jho Low

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian police on Friday filed criminal charges against fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, who is wanted in connection with a multi-billion-dollar money laundering scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

FILE PHOTO: Traffic passes a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

Low, popularly known as Jho Low, is regarded as having been close to former prime minister Najib Razak and has been identified by investigators in Malaysia and the United States as a key figure in the 1MDB case.

On Friday, eight charges of money laundering were filed against him at a court in the administrative capital, Putrajaya. Low’s father, Low Hock Peng, was booked for one charge under the same money laundering act.

Warrants of arrest for both of them were issued.

“The Malaysian police will present an application to Interpol for a red notice to locate and arrest the two individuals, to bring them back to face charges in a Malaysian court,” Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

Low and his family’s whereabouts are not known, but Malaysian officials have said the 38-year-old financier is believed to be living in China.

A spokesman said Low maintained his innocence and was confident he would be vindicated.

“Mr Low and his lawyers request that the public keep an open mind until all of the evidence comes to light. This has been a case of ‘trial-by-media’ from the start, and unfortunately, the circus continues,” the spokesman said in a statement.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Singapore authorities had previously issued arrest warrants for him.

Low has said previously that he would not present himself to authorities in any country where his guilt had been predetermined.

Investigations into 1MDB were reopened after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad returned to power in a stunning election victory in May, ending Najib’s decade-long rule.

Last month, Najib was charged for money laundering and abuse of power in connection with funds transferred from a former unit of 1MDB. Najib has denied wrongdoing.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) says more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, with some of the money used to buy a private jet, a superyacht, Picasso paintings, jewelry and real estate.

This month, the $250 million superyacht Equanimity, which the DOJ says was bought by Jho Low, arrived in Kuala Lumpur after it was seized by authorities in neighboring Indonesia.

A Malaysian court granted an application by the government to sell the yacht.

Attempts are also underway to impound Low’s $35 million private jet that was grounded in Singapore last year.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; additional reporting by A.Ananthalakshmi; writing by Praveen Menon; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore