Alleged Ringleader in 1MDB Scandal Sought Deal With Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of one of the world’s largest purported frauds, has reached out to authorities in Malaysia, offering to drop his claim to more than a billion dollars in assets in return for immunity from criminal prosecution, according to people familiar with the offer.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rejected the offer, which was communicated via an intermediary, the people said. Mr. Low, who the U.S. Justice Department alleges oversaw a scheme to steal $4.5 billion from a Malaysian state fund between 2009 and 2015, is living in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, say people with knowledge of his movements.

Malaysia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China, but has been using backchannel communications with Beijing to seek Mr. Low’s return to Malaysia, where last week authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, one of those people say.

Attempts to reach Mr. Low, who has denied wrongdoing, weren’t successful. His lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Low has been fighting a long campaign against mounting legal problems, which began in July 2016 when the Justice Department filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize assets allegedly purchased with money stolen from the investment fund, which is called 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB.

The lawsuits alleged Mr. Low was the ringleader, using the stolen funds to buy mansions, a yacht and to set up a Hollywood production company. His lawyers have sought to stop U.S. authorities from taking those assets. In August 2017, the Justice Department asked the judge in California hearing the case to suspend the civil lawsuits to allow U.S. prosecutors to focus on building a criminal case. The judge agreed to put the civil suits on hold.


Gambling enclave where he hosted a party including Nicole Sherzinger in February 2018.

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