GEROGE TOWN: A close friend of Low Taek Jho’s parents today suggested that prosecutors allow the runaway businessman to defend himself in absentia, following the latter’s concerns over the likelihood of receiving a fair trial if he returns to Malaysia.
Yan Lee, who vouched for the Low family during the authorities’ recent efforts to seize their family home in Tanjung Bungah, said everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that Low, better known as Jho Low, should be given the same treatment.
Speaking to FMT on the sidelines of a press conference here today, Lee said he knew nothing of Jho Low’s whereabouts but that he had been contacted by the businessman’s lawyers from the London-based Schillings law firm to vouch that the bungalow had been purchased through legal means.
The authorities had sought to seize the house on grounds that it might have been acquired through funds illegally obtained from 1MDB.
Lee said that Jho Low’s family had owned the bungalow since the 2000s, before 1MDB was established. He said it was rebuilt on the land where their old house had once stood.
“In Malaysia Baru, we uphold the rule of law,” he said today.
“The principle of innocent until proven guilty must be upheld, otherwise the whole system, the constitution and everything else, breaks down.”
He said nobody would want to return to the country if they felt that they might not get a fair trial.
“I am sure the courts might have a way to deal with this when the accused are not around. Either in absentia or whatever way possible, the courts are empowered to make a decision.
“Only the courts can decide if a person is guilty or not. Once they are proven guilty, I will clap together with all Malaysians,” he added.
When asked how he knew Jho Low, Lee said they met when the latter was involved in an accident about 20 years ago.
He said he had been with Jho Low’s father at their family home in Barracks Road when the incident happened.
“Jho Low had a car accident. His car crashed near (developer) Asas Dunia’s Paul Chan’s house. We went to help him out.”
Describing Jho Low as a clever and intelligent boy, Lee added that he had attended the Chung Ling independent Chinese secondary school in Air Itam.
Jho Low, who is wanted by the authorities in connection with the 1MDB scandal, is believed to have been hiding in Macau. He was later thought to have fled to China, although a Chinese official denied the claim last year.
He is being sought by law enforcement agencies in several countries as part of investigations into corruption, bribery and money laundering.
Malaysian police say he is expected to be detained “soon”.
The government has filed a civil forfeiture action against his father, Larry Low, to freeze seven of his bank accounts said to be worth RM48 million.