A deal has just been made that is bound to make history and leave the Malaysian government in quite the conundrum.
The US government and Malaysian fugitive Jho Low reached a historic settlement on Wednesday of an estimated US$1 billion that resolves all criminal and civil charges against the former financier and absolves him of guilt.
Low has been considered the “mastermind” of the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal that rocked Malaysia and saw billions siphoned off from a government state fund to certain individuals, including the former prime minister, Najib Razak.
This deal with the US comes as a surprise for the Malaysian government, which had been actively trying to find Low and force him to stand trial since he went into hiding.
However, it has been revealed that the settlement comes on the backdrop of months of discussions, negotiations and dialog between the two parties.
Let’s break it down and see what exactly this historic agreement means for the parties involved:
It is clearly a win for the United States and the Justice Department’s newly minted Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which was established to prevent the US from becoming a haven of stolen proceeds.
It also is bound to be a huge resource and time saver for the US which will avoid an endless and complicated trial and a waste of resources.
It is clearly a win for Jho Low, who has been exempt from guilt by a world superpower. Many countries will undoubtedly follow suit and grant Low asylum as he continues to be helpful in recovering assets and open to negotiations.
But what about Malaysia?
This news is bound to garner negative reactions from Malaysian citizens who want to see Low be brought to justice, but I urge you to stop and think. This settlement can be equally beneficial for Malaysia. It all depends on how we handle it.
The funds received by the US government as a result of this deal will undoubtedly be largely repatriated to Malaysia. Considering the immense debt left by 1MDB, this is vital for the economy and for moving forward toward a New Malaysia.
It also gives us the resources needed to continue the ongoing Najib Razak trial, and the opportunity to start a dialog with Low which will undoubtedly aid in the Najib prosecution process, reach a verdict, and finally put this mess to bed.
However, this all depends on the reaction of the Malaysian government and whether they decide to accept this settlement and respect the international community or continue their current path of hunting down Jho Low – a quest that, after this deal, may have turned into a failed witch-hunt.