Following the revelations last month that eight Cambodian elites with ties to the country’s authoritarian regime had secured Cypriot passports, Politis reported on Sunday that Malaysian fugitive Jho Taek Low has been a Cyprus citizen for the past four years.
Low, better known as Jho Low, as a key figure in the scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which US and Malaysian prosecutors say was used to siphon out hundreds of millions of dollars.
Malaysian authorities have withdrawn his passport, issued an arrest warrant and have sought help from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong.
According to Politis Low came to Cyprus in September 2015 and obtained the passport under the citizenship by investment scheme within two days after investing in some property in the Famagusta district. He was not wanted at the time in connection with the 1MDB scandal, Interpol did not issue a red notice until a year later.
After the Cambodia revelations, the government has said it would review passports given out prior to new stricter criteria that was introduced this year.
The programme, when it was launched in 2013, required that applicants must have a clean criminal record issued by their country of origin and country of residence if this is different. It also stipulated that applicants should not be included on the list of persons whose property is frozen within the boundaries of the European Union.
The programme has undergone several revisions since 2013. The latest were introduced in February after a backlash and a warning from the EU. The new stipulations state that applicants must have a Schengen area visa and persons who applied for citizenship in any other EU member state and were turned down were not entitled to obtain Cypriot citizenship as part of the scheme.
Last week it was reported that the US Justice Department was close to a deal with fugitive financier Low to recover almost a billion dollars that was misappropriated from 1MDB, Bloomberg reported last Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Low faces charges in the United States as well as Malaysia over his alleged central role in the scandal.
The settlement could be filed this month in a California court, the Bloomberg report said.
The deal is not expected to include an admission of guilt or wrongdoing and isn’t tied to the criminal action against him, the report said.
Malaysian and US investigators say that at least $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by Low and other high-level officials of the fund and their associates. Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc, which acted as an underwriter to the fund, has also been embroiled in the scandal.
Malaysian police said last week they know Low’s location and hope to bring him back by the end of the year to help in investigations.
According to an AFP report on Friday, Low has been offered asylum abroad, his spokesman said as reports surfaced he was in the Middle East.
“We understand that Mr Low was offered asylum in August 2019 by a country that acts in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights,” a spokesperson for Low, through his attorneys, told AFP. The spokesperson did not provide further details, the agency said.
It cited online news portal The Malaysian Insight saying Low was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and had been travelling between Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East since June, citing unidentified sources.
But Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said claims that Low was in the UAE were lies and folk tales. He said it was illogical and impossible for a person who is wanted in several countries to enter the UAE easily.
“I do not know where this story originated from and I am interested in meeting this person. I wish to state that we are aware of Jho Low’s whereabouts but some people are protecting him … just give me some time.
“I will not stop efforts in tracking down and bringing back this criminal. If he is not a criminal or has been framed, there is no need to panic, please come home. I will assure that he will be dealt with according to the law,” Abdul Hamid said, according to AFP.