The U.S. Justice Department has struck a deal with fugitive financier Jho Low - the mysterious financier who allegedly masterminded the theft of more than $4 billion from Malaysia's 1MDB development fund - to recoup almost a billion dollars from Malaysian investment fund 1MDB.
“I am very pleased” that a global settlement has been reached, Low said in a statement distributed by his representatives.
The “agreement builds on a series of successful prior agreements negotiated withe the U.S. Department of Justice and is a result of good faith discussions,” he said.
It has been more than a year since the DoJ first unveiled criminal and civil charges against Low for his role in looting billions of dollars in public money from the fund. The ensuing scandal has already toppled the government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and resulted in the seizures of a super yacht, millions of dollars in jewelry (some of which was given as gifts to celebrities whom Low had befriended) and some of the proceeds from the Oscar-winning movie "Wolf of Wall Street".
The WSJ reporter who initially broke the story has already published a book - "Billion Dollar Whale" - about the affair. Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street bank that enabled the 1MDB fraud with a series of shady bond deals that capitalized the fund, has also been ensnared in the investigation. Several of its employees have been arrested, and a former top banker has already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Since the scandal erupted more than three years ago, it's believed that Low has been hiding in China, where, rumor has it, the Communist Party have offered him protection.
Bloomberg's report about the impending deal doesn't offer any details about how it was reached. Low has poured resources into hiring law firms and PR shops to handle his legal battles and protect his image in absentia. The only thing they tell us is that the deal would help resolve more than a dozen forfeiture cases against Low. As part of the agreement, the government would be able to recover "properties in Los Angeles, New York and London, and [proceeds] from the sale of a Bombardier jet." Low reportedly won't be expected to agree to an admission of guilt or wrongdoing, as the settlement isn't tied to criminal probes.
”We were pleased to help negotiate this historic resolution in order to preserve the tremendous value of assets involved,” Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey said in a statement. His law firm represents Low.
“It is one of the largest civil forfeiture settlements in U.S. history and represents a voluntary return of each and every asset claimed by DOJ.”
Low will also be required to surrender his claim on a Superyacht that has already been seized by the Malaysian government, and has been at the center of a legal battle involving Low and his army of lawyers.
In other words, he will likely need to remain in hiding, seeing as he will likely remain a high-level target for criminal prosecutions moving forward on multiple continents.