KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho has said he only acted as an intermediary for deals involving 1MDB, denying in an interview published on Monday that he had set the stage for the theft of billions of dollars from the Malaysian state fund.
Low faces charges in the United States and Malaysia for his alleged central role in defrauding up to $4.5 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), founded by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the subject of the U.S. Department of Justice’s largest ever anti-kleptocracy case.
Low, or Jho Low as he is popularly known, has consistently denied wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.
“People and companies act as introducers or intermediaries all the time,” Low said in an interview with Singapore’s Straits Times.
“This is not a unique situation. I was requested to assist because of my good relationships with influential foreign businessmen and decision makers.”
A spokesman for Low did not immediately respond to a request for additional comments.
To a question on why he has remained on the run, Low said the Malaysian government has victimized him and his family, ignoring “basic human rights and fair judicial processes” by branding him as the mastermind behind the scandal.
Malaysia’s prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Low said his “professional connections” had helped Malaysia build strong ties with key allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, boosting Haj pilgrimage quotas for Malaysian Muslims and investments in financial, real estate and other sectors in the Southeast Asian country.
Low declined to divulge his current location but confirmed he was offered asylum in August last year. He did not name the country offering asylum.
In November, U.S. authorities struck a deal with Low to recoup $1 billion in funds allegedly looted from 1MDB, which included a private jet, high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London, and other assets.
The deal does not include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing and is not tied to the criminal action against Low.
Low - who said he has had “multiple brushes with cancer” - said he now plans to focus on investing in cutting-edge cancer research.
“I would cherish the opportunity to reinvigorate my philanthropic efforts and to give back to the community and help others in any way I can.”
Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Michael Perry