PETALING JAYA: A retired judge has dismissed businessman Low Taek Jho’s claim that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has no respect for the rule of law as an attempt to distract attention from the issue at hand.
Low, better known as Jho Low, had accused Mahathir of violating the rule of law after it was announced that a luxury yacht linked to the fugitive businessman would be handed over to the Malaysian government.
But former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said this was like “a red herring covered with a thick white sauce”.
“If you strip the sauce, you will see the red herring. This is a typical distraction by a fugitive from justice,” he told FMT.
In a statement issued through his legal team on Saturday, Jho Low, who is at the centre of investigations in Malaysia and the US over allegations of embezzlement from 1MDB, said the move to hand over the yacht to Putrajaya was illegal and politically motivated.
“As he did in Malaysia’s 1988 judicial crisis, Mahathir is showing the world that his new regime still has no interest in the rule of law,” he said, referring to the removal of senior judges during Mahathir’s first tenure as prime minister.
Sri Ram said Jho Low should return to Malaysia if he wanted to challenge Jakarta’s decision to hand over the superyacht Equanimity to Putrajaya.
“He should file proceedings here to claim that he is the owner and that he purchased the yacht with his own money instead of hiding in a foreign jurisdiction.”
He added that Indonesia was governed by Roman-Dutch law, and had statutes and decrees with which Malaysians were not familiar.
“It is highly unlikely that the executive will act contrary to the decision of the Indonesian court.”
In any event, he added, the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) court filings showed that the Equanimity belonged to Malaysia as it was purchased with stolen money.
Sri Ram also said if a High Court in Kuala Lumpur had allowed 1MDB critic Khairuddin Abu Hassan’s application to cross-examine Jho Low in the “pink diamond” suit, the businessman would have been compelled to return to Malaysia.
However, Jho Low in an affidavit filed through his lawyers, denied that he was a fugitive.
“We now know the denial is not correct,” Sri Ram said.
Khairuddin filed his suit last year, claiming that between June 2013 and March 2014, Jho Low, through his agent, bought a pink diamond worth US$23 million and a necklace worth US$4.3 million from New York jeweller Lorraine Schwartz with money taken from 1MDB.
He wanted Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, to return the jewellery to 1MDB and for Jho Low to repay the amount of money allegedly taken from 1MDB.
On Saturday, it was reported that Indonesia had agreed to hand over the US$250 million luxury yacht linked to the 1MDB corruption scandal. Indonesian authorities had impounded the yacht in Bali earlier this year.
The Cayman Islands-flagged Equanimity was seized in February at the request of US authorities as part of a multi-billion dollar corruption investigation related to 1MDB launched by the DoJ.
An Indonesian court ruling in April declared that the yacht was wrongfully impounded and should be released to its owners.
However, Indonesian police seized the yacht again in July following a formal request for legal assistance from the US.
The yacht left Batam yesterday and is expected to arrive in Port Klang today.