KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) – Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Abdul Hamid Bador does not believe that Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, is hiding in Cyprus, after news broke that the fugitive Malaysian businessman had obtained a Cypriot passport.
“It’s impossible for him to leave the country that he has been hiding in easily,” said Tan Sri Hamid at a press conference at the Royal Malaysia Police College on Wednesday (Nov 6).
“He’s still there, hiding like a chicken.”
Mr Hamid added that he continued to hold talks via official and semi-official channels in an ongoing effort to bring Low – who he only revealed is hiding on “an island” – back to Malaysia.
“There are parties that say that our efforts so far have not been enough, or (that we have) done so without considering more unorthodox methods, such as the ‘Mossad’ way,” said Mr Hamid, referring to the Israeli intelligence arm which in 1960 abducted Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. He was later executed by hanging after being found guilty of war crimes.
“I don’t only use official channels (to conduct talks), but also semi-official ones,” he said, adding that it was his mission to bring Low to justice.
Low is accused of siphoning about US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in a scandal spanning several countries. He has denied wrongdoing and his location is unknown.
“We have actually made arrests around three, four weeks ago. And from these, we have successfully uncovered information stating that Jho Low is currently trying to buy properties in Cyprus by using another name, ” said the IGP, adding that Low still had control of billions of dollars.
Mr Hamid also again expressed his disappointment with a certain unnamed country over the lack of assistance in locating Low.
“I had said before that there is a limit to my patience. All this while, we have given our assistance to the country in question in all things to do with policing. But, I am very disappointed that my requests are not entertained,” he said.
Cyprus’s finance minister acknowledged on Tuesday that some mistakes were made in offering citizenship for investment after disclosures about beneficiaries, including Low, triggered uproar on the Mediterranean island.
A Reuters investigation published in October revealed that wealthy relatives and allies of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have been buying foreign citizenship, with eight members of his inner circle receiving Cypriot passports. The authorities in Cyprus launched a probe after the report.
Local media have subsequently reported on other beneficiaries of the scheme that benefited more than 3,200 investors and family members between 2013 and 2018. Politis newspaper published an image of what it said was a Cypriot passport given to Low.
“We have to acknowledge that in the early years mistakes were made. Isolated albeit, but not insignificant,” Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades told a business conference in Nicosia. “Substantive corrective measures related to the programme have come into effect since the beginning of this year.”
Cyprus has had a citizenship for investment plan in place since 2013, under which a minimum €2 million (S$3 million) investment can acquire a passport and visa-free travel throughout the European Union. It has been reviewed several times and criteria are now stricter, the authorities say.
The island’s Cabinet was due to discuss the matter on Wednesday, Cypriot media reported.
Reuters’ disclosures triggered demands from Cypriot opposition parties for answers. The main AKEL opposition party repeatedly asked how passports could be given to individuals “who probably couldn’t find Cyprus on the map”.