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article imageMalaysian financier denies masterminding 1MDB graft scandal

By AFP     Jan 6, 2020 in Business

The fugitive Malaysian financier at the centre of a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal insisted he had not led the plundering of the 1MDB fund, a report said Monday.

Low Taek Jho -- commonly known as Jho Low -- has been charged in Malaysia and the US for allegedly playing a major role in the theft of billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Looted money was used to buy everything from a super-yacht to art, in a fraud that allegedly involved former leader Najib Razak and contributed to his government's downfall in 2018.

In a rare interview, Low told Singapore's Straits Times newspaper that he was an "intermediary" who was sought after due to his "good relationships with influential foreign businessmen and decision makers".

"The idea that I am some kind of 'mastermind' is just wrong," said the financier, who acted as an unofficial adviser to 1MDB.

The 38-year-old -- who consistently denies wrongdoing over the scandal -- said various institutions, bankers and lawyers had also worked with the fund, in emailed responses to the paper.

"The inordinate amount of media scrutiny on me compared to that placed on the global financial and other institutions and advisers that actually organised and facilitated the fundraisings at issue is astounding," he said.

"The reality is that I am an easy target."

Malaysia has charged Goldman Sachs and some current and former employees over the bank's role in arranging bond issues for 1MDB, with authorities claiming large sums were misappropriated.

The bank has vowed to fight the charges.

Najib has been put on trial over the scandal since losing power, and a key part of his defence is that Low masterminded the fraud and he was ignorant of what was happening.

Low refused to be drawn on his current whereabouts. He has been reported to be in locations ranging from the United Arab Emirates to China.

In October, he struck a settlement with US authorities to forfeit assets worth $700 million, including a Beverly Hills hotel and a private jet, as part of efforts to recover stolen cash.

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