Perplexing Houdini act of Jho Low and his band


  • Business
  • Saturday, 09 Nov 2019

How can Jho Low(pic) and his band of thieves be missing for so long?

The vanishing act of all the key perpetrators of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal must surely find a place in the History of Magic book.

It’s not only Jho Low who the authorities are unable to catch, but also five others who had abetted him in stealing billions from 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd - they seem to have vanished from the face of the earth.

The five are Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, Eric Tan Kim Loong, Casey Tang, Jasmine Loo Ai Swan and Geh Choh Heng. They are wanted in Malaysia or Singapore or both the countries since 2015. It has been four years now but none of them have been caught.

All five appear to have pulled off a vanishing act, which is hard to believe.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, has stated that he knows where Jho Low is, but cannot apprehend him because his counterparts in the country where the fugitive has sought refuge in are not cooperating.

Abdul Hamid did not mention the country, but it is widely believed that Jho Low is hiding in China or Macau.

1MDB fugitives:  (from left) Tan, Tang, Geh, Loo and Nik Faisal. All five appear to have pulled off a vanishing act, which is hard to believe.1MDB fugitives: (from left) Tan, Tang, Geh, Loo and Nik Faisal. All five appear to have pulled off a vanishing act, which is hard to believe.

Malaysia has no extradition treaty with China. However, what about the other five who had assisted Jho Low in defrauding 1MDB? Are they also in China that the police are unable to nab them?

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Abdul Hamid was reported to have said in May this year that he knew the “whereabouts” of Nik Faisal and stated that the former SRC International managing director was not in Indonesia. It was widely expected that Nik Faisal, a key witness in the SRC trial, would be brought back when the case started.

The hearing of the SRC International case is at a critical stage now. The judge is to decide whether former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has a case to answer. However, there is still no sign of Nik Faisal, who has been identified as the person handling Najib’s money from SRC International.

What about the status of Tang, Loo, Tan and Geh? None of them have been apprehended either. How can that be? How can five high-profile people simply vanish from the face of the earth?

All five had been well rewarded by Jho Low, but living a life of a fugitive does not come cheap. Fugitives have to constantly feed their “guardians” with cash to stay clear of the long arm of the law.

It is safe to assume that after four years, the loot would have dwindled. The fugitives, except for Jho low, should be running low on cash by now.

So, how do they sustain their lives? What is their source of income? Do they have a bank account, or do they lug around the loot in a stack of cash?

Even Jho Low cannot be living off the billions he had stolen for a long time.

In his case, the IGP had stated that he still had billions stashed away. Surely, the money is the only thing that is keeping him at bay from those looking for him.

However, even Jho Low should be running low on funds.

The US Department of Justice has recouped assets amounting to US$1bil from Jho Low as part of a civil settlement. Jho Low still faces criminal charges not only in the US but also in Malaysia and Singapore.

In all probability, no international bank would want to deal with him. So, how does he pay for his bills? He cannot be clutching bags of cash and paying for everything in cold, hard cash.

Jho Low has a public relations (PR) firm that is his mouthpiece. Unlike legal firms that cannot disclose information on their clients, PR companies cannot withhold information on theirs. The company would need to know where Jho Low is or even if he really exists before it issues a statement.

The PR company will surely be paid for its services. There has to be a money trail. Surely, the authorities from the US, Malaysia and Singapore can trace the money trail to the PR company and find out the source of the funds.

When the source of funds are cut, it would become really difficult to lead the life of a fugitive.

If one were to take a hard look at the situation today, nobody really knows for sure if the PR company is really speaking on behalf of Jho Low, as he has not appeared in public for a few years now. But considering that the firm continues to issue statements, one must assume that it is being paid.

Jho Low, through his `PR’ mouthpiece, has denied any wrongdoing and claims that he would not get a fair trial if he returned to Malaysia. Well, if he has nothing to fear, then he could at least talk to the authorities of the country he is currently residing in and tell his side of the story.

Nik Faisal was the SRC International managing director and his wife is said to be Indonesian. However, he still has property and assets here. Nik Faisal comes from an illustrious family and they are still very much in Malaysia. Although he has been wanted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission or MACC since 2015, he was reported to have hobnobbed with the elite in upmarket spots such as Bangsar until the change in government in May 2018.

Nik Faisal would have communicated with his family here in Malaysia. Can’t his whereabouts be traced or his access to funds cut off? The same goes to the other four on the wanted list in relation to the 1MDB debacle. Tang, Tan, Loo and Geh all have family and relations in Malaysia. There could be some form of communication with their close family members here.

Tang, Loo and Geh all share a finance and investment background. They may have invested their money to help sustain their fugitive lifestyle. There has to be some way for them to get their hands on their money on a regular basis to upkeep their lifestyle, and moreover, the amount would have depleted quite a bit in the last four years.

As for Tan, it is speculated that he is somewhere in Thailand. However, Tan, who fronted for Jho Low in receiving the funds diverted from 1MDB, had kept a low profile even before the scandal blew up.

Nevertheless, there has to be some money trail leading to all of them. It is hard to believe that these people just vanished without any communication with family members or are not receiving some kind of financial assistance.

The IGP has stated that Jho Low would be caught and that they were negotiating with the authorities in the country where he is hiding on the matter. Perhaps, a more effective method would be to cut off the money flows to the fugitives.

Without money, a fugitive is as good as gone. They would be forced to give up.

The views expressed here are solely the writer’s own.

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