THE Malaysian businessman at the center of the country’s multi-billion dollar state investment fund scandal on Thursday accused Singapore of being politically motivated in linking him to its probe and prosecutions on the matter.
A spokesman for Low Taek Jho or Jho Low – who has been implicated in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal – said in a statement that the attempt to link Low to recent guilty pleas by parties who allegedly made illicit profits through money laundering was “based on unfounded assumptions”.
Low, a close associate of Prime Minister Najib Razak and his family, did not mention names but was likely referring to Yeo Jiawei, the former BSI banker who was on Wednesday given an additional four and a half years prison sentence by a Singapore court over financial offences involving 1MDB. Reports from court had quoted Singaporean prosecutors as saying 1MDB was merely a “victim” of Jho Low, who they also named as a key figure in the scandal.
“This is an example of overreach with a politically motivated and selectively chosen narrative alleging 1MDB as a ‘victim’, when it has been clearly stated by the Malaysian authorities that there has been no evidence of any misappropriation of 1MDB funds,” Low’s spokesman added in the statement posted on The Star’s website.
The statement also pointed out that no wrongdoing has been proven in any jurisdiction relating to the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds, and that the development in Singapore “does not change that.”
“Mr Low is confident that any impartial party presented with the complete facts will see that the allegations are flawed, biased and create an inaccurate picture.”
Prior to yesterday’s sentencing, Yeo was serving a 30-month term on charges of perverting the course of justice by urging witnesses to lie to police and destroy evidence during the investigation into illicitly transferred funds linked to 1MDB.
On Wednesday, the ex-banker who called Low his “boss”, was given additional jail time after pleading guilty to money laundering and cheating.
A prosecutor in the case said the schemes to “secretly profit” through the laundering were dishonestly concealed from BSI Singapore, and resulted in Yeo earning in excess of US$3.5 million in illicit profits.
Reuters also quoted prosecutors as saying that Yeo played a central role in the illicit movement of SGD23.9 million (US$17.3 million) of 1MDB-linked funds, both while he was working at the now defunct BSI Bank Singapore, and afterwards.
Singapore’s central bank announced in May that it has ended its review of banks with 1MDB-linked transactions.
As part of its two-year review, Singapore shut down the local units of BSI Bank and Falcon Bank due to failures of money laundering controls and improper conduct by senior management, froze millions of dollars in bank accounts and charged several private bankers.
In June, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) launched a third civil suit to recover about US$540 million in assets that authorities say were stolen by financiers associated with 1MDB, which was established by Najib in 2009.
US investigators have traced nearly US$700 million to bank accounts that were allegedly siphoned from 1MDB into Najib’s personal account. The leader, however, has denied taking money from 1MDB or any other entity for personal gain.
Apart from the DoJ, investigators from at least six other countries, including Singapore, Switzerland, and Australia were looking into the 1MDB case. However, the scandal is not being investigated domestically.