Fugitive Malaysian trader Low Taek Jho is still wanted by the US authorities despite him agreeing a deal with the Department of Justice (DoJ), according to the US assistant secretary for East Asia, David Stilwell.
Investigations against Jho Low over the scandal-ridden investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), were still ongoing, he told the media.
The DoJ this week announced a settlement of assets worth about RM3 billion (US$720 million), including a Beverly Hills hotel and a private jet acquired by Low.
Stilwell said this did not absolve the fugitive from any criminal wrongdoing.
“We are still pursuing justice. Criminal action is still on,” Stilwell said.
The agreement does not include an admission of guilt and it does not release Low from other criminal charges.
The whereabouts of Low, who faces charges in the US and Malaysia over accusations that he orchestrated the theft of more than US$4 billion from 1MDB, are unknown although his representatives say he has been offered asylum in an unnamed country.
The Malaysian media has reported rumours that Low was in the United Arab Emirates and has visited Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other West Asian states.
Low was previously believed to be in China.
The DoJ agreed an agreement with Low on Thursday to recoup nearly US$1 billion taken from 1MDB, in what would be the biggest recovery from a US anti-corruption probe.
The deal was called the most significant achievement for the DoJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative almost 10 years since it was set up to stop the US becoming a safe haven for assets acquired through corruption.
The 94-year-old Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said he would ask for any recovered cash to be returned to Kuala Lumpur.
Stilwell said Washington was “extremely happy” to return assets to Malaysia.
“We are happy to return the money to where it belongs,” the regional envoy added.
The deal, if approved by a federal judge, will help resolve forfeiture cases tied to Low.
The 1MDB cash was used by Low to pay for a private jet, a super-yacht, mansions in New York and London, diamonds and Hollywood movie productions, according to the DoJ.
“We were pleased to help negotiate this historic resolution in order to preserve the tremendous value of assets involved,” said Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. His law firm represents Low. “It is one of the largest civil forfeiture settlements in US history and represents a voluntary return of each and every asset claimed by DoJ.”
The Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Picture credit: Kremlin