China denies harbouring alleged 1MDB mastermind

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) –


China denied Thursday it was harbouring a fugitive financier wanted over the massive 1MDB corruption scandal, after Malaysian police said he was hiding in Macau.

Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low, is accused of being the mastermind behind a fraud that saw billions of dollars looted from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The money was used to buy everything from a super yacht to art in a scam that also involved former Malaysian premier Najib Razak, who was convicted in his first 1MDB-linked trial this week.

Malaysian police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said Wednesday that Low was in the semi-autonomous casino hub of Macau. He has previously been rumoured to be in various locations across the world, from the United Arab Emirates to China.

However, a Chinese embassy spokesperson called the claim "groundless and unacceptable", saying the country would never "shelter foreign criminals".

"The Chinese police have followed and investigated meticulously each and every relevant clue we have received from the Malaysian police," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, no relevant individuals have been found and the Malaysian side has been informed accordingly."

Low, who held no official position at 1MDB but was believed to wield enormous influence over its operations, has been charged in both Malaysia and the United States over the controversy.

He denies wrongdoing.

Najib's lawyers accused Low of having tricked the ex-leader, although this claim was rejected by a judge when he found him guilty this week.

The former premier was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in jail and fined almost $50 million on corruption charges relating to the scandal, which led to his government's downfall in 2018.

Najib is currently facing two other trials over the controversy.