US envoy tells Jho Low to come back home or head to US courts

US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir.

GEORGE TOWN: United States ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir today said fugitive financier Jho Low is more than welcome to prove his innocence in an American court if he does not want to return home to Malaysia.

Lakhdhir said since the Department of Justice (DoJ) had indicted Low, along with other figures in the case, he could turn himself in anytime.

“If he is so sure of his innocence, let him come home or he can come to the United States. And then he can prove his case in court,” she said in an interview with select press outlets at a hotel here today.

Lakhdhir was asked to comment on the US offer to locate Low and the result of the efforts.

She said currently, the DoJ and the Malaysian Attorney-General’s Chambers have been working closely.

Lakhdhir said what was going on between both parties was confidential.

She said a recovery initiative by the US since 2017 would ensure the funds used to buy the assets could be returned to the Malaysian people.

“This is a global case, not only involving us and Malaysia, but also Switzerland and Singapore. We are cooperating together to track the assets,” she said.

Low, who is wanted by the authorities in connection with the 1MDB scandal, had raised concerns that he would not receive a fair trial, citing persecution and trial by media.

He is being sought by law enforcement agencies in several countries as part of investigations into corruption, bribery and money laundering.

On a different note, Lakhdhir said the US and Malaysia’s friendship remains stronger than ever, boosted by trade numbers and mutual cooperation in many fields.

She said the total trade from the US to Malaysia had exceeded RM155 billion, while Malaysia exported goods worth more than RM90 billion to the US, which she said was the highest in more than a decade.

Lakhdhir said a large part of the exports to the US included medical devices, especially those from Penang, and other computer and technology-related products.

She said the US-China trade war appears to have no negative bearing on Malaysia, as it was part of a global supply chain that did not rely exclusively on trade from China.

“I cannot predict where it is going or what time-frame we are looking at but I will say it is not easy to say that it is all negative for Malaysia or the region.

“I will admit that companies like predictability and certainty. So, therefore, it is in some ways, a very challenging environment.

“But there has been a lot of talk and US companies are making decisions which would allow for more opportunities in Malaysia and other countries in the region, which would lead to more foreign direct investment.

“This is because people are concerned about ensuring stability in their supply chain,” she said.

Lakhdhir said Malaysia remains a choice investment destination due to its intellectual property (IP) protection environment, which US firms “value greatly”.

She said while there are steps Malaysia can take to improve IP protection, the US is working together with Putrajaya to do just that.

“This is one of the most critical issues between the US and China. There are companies here which have chosen to be in Malaysia due to IP protection.

“So, there are many factors involved in why American factories are in Malaysia and why they may move their operations to Malaysia.”

On Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks that he was better than US President Donald Trump, Lakhdhir said all leaders had their own views on matters.

She said Mahathir, like everyone else, had a lot of views, some positive, some critical, but remained good friends with the US.

“The truth is, I actually consider the relationship between the US and Malaysia to be very strong in many ways.

“Of course, sometimes he is critical of certain aspects of US policies and sometimes the US administration seems critical of Malaysia.

“But this does not mean the fundamental relationship, the bilateral relationship, is not strong.”