Jho Low maintains innocence despite USA charges over 1MDB

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's adviser Daim Zainuddin had previously said Low attempted to contact him several times on Sept 6

For 36-year-old Taek Jho Low, or Jho Low, it's a far cry from earlier days of partying with jet-set celebrities like Paris Hilton in Las Vegas and Saint Tropez.

Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and former Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng Chong Hwa were indicted on charges of conspiracy to launder billions of dollars in illegal proceeds from Malaysia's 1MDB wealth fund, United States federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said yesterday. Police in Malaysia said in July that Low had fled Macau to an unknown destination.

In a video to promote his family's company, Jynwel, Low said he early on wanted to be a brain surgeon but gradually grew more interested in business and politics while attending meetings with his father. It also said Low orchestrated the theft.

In its LinkedIn profile, Jynwel Capital describes itself as an worldwide private equity investment and advisory firm with 10-50 employees. "Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him". Goldman Sachs, which the indictment says raised about $6.5 billion through bond offerings for the fund, also did not immediately comment.

Ng and Leissner's efforts in the scheme dated to 2009, when they began cultivating a relationship with Low, who allegedly "worked as an intermediary in relation to 1MDB and other foreign government officials" but did not hold a formal position at 1MDB and was never employed by the government. The U.S. Justice Department says he had considerable influence over its dealings.

Since being ousted, Najib has been hit with a barrage of charges linked to the scandal.

These are the first United States criminal charges in the case which spawned investigations around the world. A lawyer for Mr. Leissner could not be reached for comment.

In an online chat between Low and Leissner in June 2014, Low and Leissner "discussed the need to "suck up to" a 1MDB official and to send "cakes" to a person believed to be the wife of Malaysian Official #1", U.S. authorities said in a statement.

The funds were intended "for the benefit of the Malaysian people" but more than US$2.7 billion went to kickbacks and bribes, according to the charges. His government has put his luxury yacht, the Equanimity, on auction to help recoup some of the huge debts created by 1MDB. The justice department's kleptocracy asset recovery initiative has already filed civil charges aimed at seizing assets allegedly bought with embezzled 1MDB funds, including a $39m mansion in the Los Angeles hills and a $30m penthouse in Manhattan overlooking Central Park. They say numerous transactions were done through shell companies, which often are used to obscure origins and destinations of illicit activities.

The Justice Department announced charges Thursday against a fugitive Malaysian financier and two former Goldman Sachs bankers accused in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a... Singapore fined eight banks for failing to carry out proper anti-money laundering measures in relation to 1MDB and gave prison sentences to several bankers.

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