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Malaysia asks Interpol to trace financier in 1MDB scandal

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Jho Low pictured in 2014 at a New York social event: Interpol has been asked to trace him

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - 

Malaysia has asked Interpol to help track down a financier at the centre of a massive financial scandal that has embroiled the country's leader, it was announced Monday.

Low Taek Jho, a jet-setting businessman also known as "Jho Low", was allegedly a key figure in the scandal surrounding 1MDB, a state investment fund founded and overseen by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The US Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that $4.5 billion was looted from 1MDB in an audacious campaign of fraud and money-laundering, and is seeking to seize $1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen money.

Low, a family friend of Najib, allegedly helped establish 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and took key decisions. US justice officials accuse him of using looted money to purchase items including artwork, a hotel and a luxury yacht.

Low, whose whereabouts are unknown, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime.

Responding to a question in parliament about Low, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said: "We have made a request to Interpol to find the person."

He added police had not yet received any information about his whereabouts.

Interpol, which helps with the exchange of information between police forces from over 190 countries, did not respond to a request for comment.

Celebrities have been sucked into the scandal, with the Justice Department alleging stolen 1MDB money was used to buy jewelry worth millions of dollars for Miranda Kerr as well as gifts for Leonardo DiCaprio.

They have both handed the items to US authorities.

US authorities say a figure it calls "Malaysian Official 1" knowingly received huge sums of 1MDB money, and a Malaysian cabinet minister has since confirmed that official was Najib.

The scandal has rocked the administration of Najib, who must call elections by mid-2018. He has responded by purging critics from his government and curbing domestic investigations.

Both Najib and the fund deny wrongdoing.

© 2017 AFP