Cyprus Mail

Authorities go after luxury villa of fugitive businessman

Malaysian businessman Jho Taek Low

An order freezing the luxury Ayia Napa villa owned by fugitive businessman Jho Low, who was granted a Cyprus passport in September 2015, has been secured by the Unit for Combatting Money Laundering (Mokas), it was reported on Wednesday.

According to Phileleftheros, the order was secured with the collaboration of the attorney-general’s office through the Nicosia court.

Sale or transfer of the €5m villa had already been blocked by the land registry department, the report said.

The new court order opens the way for confiscation of the property down the line and the proceeds for sale to go to the Malaysian authorities where Low is wanted on alleged fraud charges.  Low is said to have been 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 withdrew Low’s passport, issued an arrest warrant and have been seeking him since. A report from Malaysia on Wednesday said he is now believed to be in Macau.

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.

Low has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Last year he reached a landmark global, comprehensive settlement with the United States Department of Justice. The agreement did not constitute an admission of guilt, fault, liability and/or any form of wrongdoing on the part of Low.

In the trial of former PM Najib Razak, which ended Wednesday, and was widely reported, a lead investigator testified he did not believe that Low was involved in the alleged misappropriation of funds from SRC – an offshoot company set up under 1MDB. The judge ruled that “It is too far-fetched and self-serving to say (Najib was) conned by Jho Low”,  which was Razak’s claim.

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