Leaked papers: Jho Low asked if it was safe to flee to Cayman Islands

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KUALA LUMPUR: 1MDB-linked Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, sought details about extradition laws if he were to flee to the Cayman Islands or the British Virgin Islands, it has been revealed.

According to leaked information which contained, among other things, confidential client e-mails, Low’s lawyer, Demelza Hassani, wrote to Bermuda law firm Appleby on Aug 10, 2015, inquiring about this.

Low has been linked to the alleged siphoning of billions of ringgit from 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands are British overseas territories in the Caribbean Sea.

Information about Low’s enquiries for safe haven were contained in the latest leak of confidential financial data made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) at the weekend, The Straits Times reported.

The ST report said that Appleby had allegedly helped the wealthy around the world to set up offshore trusts in tax havens to hide their assets from the taxman at home.

Giving details of the enquiries, Malaysiakini said, in an email dated Aug 10, 2015, Low’s UK-based lawyer Hassani contacted Appleby’s Cayman Islands office to enquire about extradition laws in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Hassani was quoted as writing in the email: “Mr Low has recently been the subject of allegations of financial wrongdoing in Malaysia. Given the nature of the allegations being made in Malaysia, Mr Low is concerned about his global exposure and is seeking expert advice on international law (including mutual legal assistance requests and/or global restraint orders).”

It said the email was sent just a month after The Wall Street Journal published an exposé that implicated Low and Prime Minister Najib Razak in the 1MDB scandal. Both Najib and Low have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Hassani sent another email the following day, according to the leaked documents termed the Paradise Papers.

“We are seeking advice in the event that the Malaysian authorities request the Cayman/BVI authorities to initiate extradition proceedings. Specifically, we would like advice on the position if a warrant for our client’s arrest were to be issued or an Interpol red notice issued during his stay.

“We would like to gauge whether Cayman/BVI would be considered a relatively safe place to travel to in the foreseeable future or whether you would advise the client to avoid entering the jurisdiction.

“It would be useful to understand more generally, the appetite in Cayman/BVI to extradite, particularly in the circumstances of politically motivated financial allegations,” the email said.

The Paradise Papers include information about the financial dealings of many rich and powerful Asians, including such names as Indonesia’s former army general and opposition coalition leader Prabowo Subianto and former president Suharto’s children Tommy and Mamiek.

Indonesia has started investigations into those named in the Paradise Papers.

Other names include Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, India’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, and former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The ST report said the leak of 1.4TB of data from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens’ company registries makes the Paradise Papers the second-largest data dump after the Panama Papers last year, which involved 2.6TB of data.

While offshore entities are legal, the secrecy they provide attracts money launderers, drug traffickers, kleptocrats and others, said the ICIJ in a report on Sunday.

“Offshore companies, often ‘shells’ with no employees or office space, are also used in complex tax-avoidance structures that drain billions from national treasuries,” it said.

The consortium, however, maintained on its website that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts, according to the ST report.

“We do not intend to suggest or imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”