Earlier this week, Malaysians woke up to the news that Jho Low entered into a deal with the US that resulted in some dramatic outcomes. It left Malaysians across the board scratching their heads and wondering – what’s next for the never-ending 1MDB saga?
The settlement entailed the fugitive aiding in the recovery of almost $1 billion worth of assets in exchange for the US dropping several charges against him. The document which announced the deal stated that the US Attorney’s office in the Central District of California and the entire US DOJ Criminal Division is bound by this settlement of “civil, criminal and administrative asset forfeiture actions or proceedings” in relation to allegations made against Low.
A fact highlighted by both the US Department of Justice as well as Low’s representatives is that this deal in no way constitutes an admission of guilt, fault or wrongdoing by Low or his family.
In a country where locating Low and bringing him to justice has become one of the accepted fabrics of society, many Malaysians feel shocked by this development and wonder what comes next.
However, taking a step back, it seems that this development may, in fact, be a positive for both the Malaysian government and its society on the whole.
Firstly, the settlement came after months of good-faith discussions and cooperation between both parties. The deal will end in a hefty amount of the $1 billion being repatriated to Malaysia which will greatly aid the economy.
Furthermore, with Low’s participation, the US is nearing a settlement with the other players in the 1MDB scandal, Goldman Sachs. This too will lead to a large sum making its way back to Malaysian soil and the recovery of all the assets from Low and his family. There is no doubt that after the damage done to the Malaysian economy by 1MDB, this will be a huge relief.
It has come to light that besides this deal, Low has also been granted asylum in several other countries on the basis of human rights and political persecution. A legal source was quoted as saying that Low was now protected under international law, in a manner akin to Malaysia refusing to deport Zakir Naik on the basis that the preacher would not receive a fair trial in his home country.
Now the Malaysian government is faced with a dilemma: they could continue pushing for the extradition of Low back to Malaysia, which seems highly unlikely after these latest developments, and which could now be seen as an international human rights violation following the asylum granted to Low. Or they can take this deal as an opportunity for themselves.
An opportunity to regain billions of the stolen money, an opportunity to join in the discussion and likely gather enough information to put former prime minister Najib Razak behind bars, and an opportunity to finally put the 1MDB debacle behind them for good.