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NEW YORK, Sept 27 — Malaysia is resorting to private initiatives to bring back fugitive tycoon Low Taek Jho from China to be prosecuted at home, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The prime minister said this was necessary as Malaysia and China do not have formal extradition arrangements.
“It is quite tricky for us to accuse China of hiding him, so we are trying to work out some ways of private efforts to get back Jho Low from China,” he said during a dialogue with the Council of Foreign Relations here yesterday.
The council is a think-tank that is often sought by leaders of the US administration for advice on foreign policies.
On why China would not send Low back to Malaysia, Dr Mahathir said this was unclear.
Recent international news reports assert that Low or Jho Low, the man allegedly at the heart of the 1MDB scandal, is in China but until recently Dr Mahathir said he had no strong evidence to support this.
Low steadfastly denies any wrongdoing in relation to 1MDB, but remains wanted in Malaysia on charges of money laundering linked to the scandal.
Dr Mahathir was also asked about his predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“Very early on he (Najib) told me that ‘cash is king’. And when you say ‘cash is king’, you are saying bribery is okay. That was when I decided I could not stay in the party (Umno) any more.
“That man feels he is immune to any action against him — he is going to be permanently the prime minister of Malaysia. He didn’t even hide the fact that he will be stealing money. The whole world knows that he stole money but if you tell him he steals money, he smiles.
“But we have proven that cash is not king. The will of the people will prevail over cash,” he said.
When asked to say how corrupt Umno has become, he said it was severe.
“It is very deep, he has undermined the leadership of the party (and) even the rank-and-file because he gives them money — all of them get money or other things for free.
“And the administrative machinery has also been undermined. He made (government) administrators serve his party, campaign for his party. That is not what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to take orders from the elected government, of course, but not to campaign for the party.”
Dr Mahathir also predicted that more Umno members will leave the party and there “is no future for Umno because the people detest Umno.”