KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — A highly paid elite legal team led by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie negotiated the settlement between fugitive financier Low Taek Jho and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) last week, Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) reported.
Low’s legal team could also secure another settlement in the coming months in connection with a criminal charge that he faces in the Eastern District Court of New York, the paper said citing legal sources.
The initial deal, Low, better known as Jho Low, will end his contest to assets amounting to roughly US$900 million (RM3.7 billion) that were seized by the DoJ in civil forfeiture cases filed between 2016 and 2017 in the Central District Court of California.
The DoJ, however, said the deal will in no way preclude criminal charges being brought against Low, said to be the mastermind behind the massive embezzlement that took place at state fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
ST also cited legal sources as saying that the Malaysian government could now grapple with the near-certain prospect that 38-year-old Low will never be caught to face trial at home.
The paper claimed Low has now secured political asylum in an unspecified European country.
Malay Mail could not independently verify the information.
If true, it would deal a massive blow to the Pakatan Harapan administration’s standing.
Should Low succeed in securing another settlement, ST suggested Kuala Lumpur could be forced to deal with “unknown complications” that may arise during the ongoing 1MDB trials.
It could also pose new challenges to the ongoing negotiations with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs and the Abu Dhabi government for compensation from the financial debacle, which the DoJ said involved the looting and misappropriation of nearly US$4.5 billion.
ST reported that Low had used Republican Party operatives such as Elliott Broidy, who is a close ally of President Donald Trump, to devise how best to deal with his legal troubles as well as those facing 1MDB and Najib.
“The negotiations were going nowhere until Christie took a more direct role some time in the middle of last year and we began talks with the DOJ some time in August,” a legal source close to Low was quoted as saying.
The Christie Law Firm joined Low’s defence team of Kobre & Kim and another outfit, Lowenstein Sandler, at the beginning of last year, shortly after Christie ended his term as governor of New Jersey.
“Low was one of his first clients, if not the first,” another lawyer was quoted as saying.
The Singapore paper also cited several executives close to the settlement deal as saying that optimism over the talks in the Low team was dashed in October last year when the DoJ decided to slap criminal charges against the still-at-large financier and two other former Goldman Sachs employees, Tim Leissner and Roger Ng.
Talks were said to have resumed some time before last Christmas although it collapsed quickly after Low’s team rejected the DOJ demand that any settlement between them would have to be approved by the Malaysian government.
But testy relations between the DoJ and Malaysian government negotiators over the seizure of assets tied to 1MDB reportedly changed the mood in late April this year, the Singapore paper alleged.
It quoted executives close to the situation as saying that relations were strained when Malaysia secretly worked with Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s government in August last year to wrest control of the superyacht, Equanimity.
A final deal was approved by the US Attorney General’s office in the last week of October before the filing in court last week. ST reported that the deal is expected to be approved by the courts before the end of this month.