KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 23): Malaysia has asked Interpol to try to locate a Malaysian financier for questioning over his suspected involvement in a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the deputy prime minister said on Monday.

See: 1MDB witnesses 'too scared to talk' in fear of retaliation

See: Malaysia's 1MDB fund a ‘victim’ of Jho Low, Singapore says

The US Justice Department is seeking to seize US$1.7 billion ($2.3 billion) in assets that it said were bought with misappropriated funds from 1MDB, according to dozens of civil lawsuits filed by the department in the past two years.

See: Stolen 1MDB funds are focus of US criminal investigation

The assets include a private jet, a hotel and real estate in New York, and a US$107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing bought by Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, the lawsuits said.

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, has not been charged with any crime. But US authorities have said they are pursuing a criminal probe into 1MDB-linked transactions.

“We are confident Interpol will act professionally, but the police have yet to receive any detailed information (on Low’s whereabouts),” Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in parliament.

A spokesman for Low could not be reached for comment. Low has previously denied any wrongdoing, saying that the US Justice Department’s actions were “a further example of global overreach in pursuit of a deeply flawed case”.

Interpol did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

1MDB, founded by Prime Minister Najib Razak, is facing money laundering probes in at least six countries including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

A total of US$4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates, according to the US lawsuits.

See: How Jho Low allegedly spent the money from 1MDB

Low is accused in the lawsuits of using 1MDB-linked funds to buy Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio a US$3.2 million Picasso painting, and giving about US$9 million in jewelry to Australian model Miranda Kerr.

DiCaprio and Kerr have turned over the items to US authorities and promised to cooperate in the 1MDB probe.

See: DiCaprio returns Brando Oscar as part of 1MDB money-laundering probe

See also: Miranda Kerr surrenders US$8.1 mil of jewellery gift from Jho Low to US Justice Department

The lawsuits also said US$681 million from 1MDB was transferred to the account of “Malaysian Official 1”, which US and Malaysian sources have previously identified as Najib.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and a Malaysian government investigation has also cleared him of any wrongdoing. A Malaysian police probe into 1MDB is under way.

 

Update on Oct 24 6:36am: According to a later AFP report, DPM Zahid has denied reports that Malaysian police are asking Interpol to try to locate Low for questioning.

In a media statement released later on Monday night, Zahid clarified that "reports on social media" had "manipulated" his statement in parliament.

He added that his reply to a parliamentary question earlier in the day "clearly stated that there was no case to convict" Low.

"To this day, PDRM (Malaysia Royal Police) has closed the case file (on Low) and no longer has any requests for Interpol with regards to the case," the statement said.