Interpol’s red notice can be used to arrest Jho Low, say lawyers

Controversial businessman Jho Low is being sought in connection with the 1MDB probe. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A senior criminal lawyer says Malaysian authorities, including the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, could apply for Interpol’s red notice on businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, after obtaining a warrant of arrest.

“This red notice is applicable in any Interpol member countries. Police in Interpol member countries will then be obliged to arrest Jho Low. Then Malaysia can apply to the respective country to extradite him to Malaysia

“While Malaysia may not have an extradition treaty with all Interpol member countries it would not be an obstacle as Malaysia has diplomatic ties with the countries,” SN Nair said when asked if there were other ways to bring the controversial figure back to Malaysia to be investigated over the 1MDB scandal.

However, he said, extradition was an extremely complex and tedious process as Jho Low was a wealthy man who could get the courts to delay the process.

Nair said Malaysia could also cancel Jho Low’s passport, thereby rendering him stateless.

“As such he will then have to be at the mercy of whichever country he is living in now and will be in breach of their immigration laws. This could force him to return to Malaysia voluntarily. And this is something a few Singaporean fugitives who took refuge overseas experienced,” he said.

Another senior criminal lawyer N Sivananthan was of the view that an Interpol red notice would mean all member states were obliged to arrest him and turn him over to the country which sought his arrest.

“However, this is where it becomes tricky. Firstly is he a citizen or permanent resident of the country where he is now located and does that country have an extradition treaty with Malaysia.

“Secondly, he can argue there are no charges pending against him currently and he may take the position that the investigators can interview him where he is,” he said.

Sivananthan said Jho Low might also argue that the investigation against him was politically motivated by virtue of his relationship with the previous prime minister and his family and as such could not be extradited even if the country he is residing in is willing to consider doing so despite an absence of a treaty.

“Since he has made the first approach through his lawyers, I think what should be pursued is an interview with him in the country he is residing in and if there is a decision to charge later on, the necessary steps may be taken then.

“We are still in a fact-finding phase and his coming forward should be taken advantage of to shed light on the shenanigans that have taken place.

“I think when you are in the phase of deciding whether an offence has occurred, the details and facts become crucial. Media speculation, public sentiment, unsubstantiated reports have to take a back seat. There must be tangible evidence to prefer a charge, nothing less will suffice,” he said.

A red notice is a request by a member country to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition and it will only be issued if there was a valid national arrest warrant.

Former Kuala Lumpur Bar Criminal Practice Committee chairman Lim Chi Chau said there were ways to bring Jho Low back to the country but it would be a time-consuming process, one which would also depend on the law in the country where Jho Low is staying.

“No extradition treaty does not mean it is impossible (to bring him back). Treaties only ease the process,” he said, adding that Malaysia could apply for the red notice to arrest Jho Low but it would be a long process.