FinCEN Leaks: Jho Low moved over RM10b in transactions flagged ‘suspicious’ by US banks

The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network document leaks showed that the suspicious transactions between the man called Jho Low’s family and related businesses came as early as 2009, the year when 1MDB was formed. — Reuters pic
The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network document leaks showed that the suspicious transactions between the man called Jho Low’s family and related businesses came as early as 2009, the year when 1MDB was formed. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Fugitive financier Low Taek Jho had moved billions of American dollars through transactions flagged as suspicious by several United States banks between 2009 and 2016, a recent document leaks showed.

The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) document leaks showed that the suspicious transactions between the man called Jho Low’s family and related businesses came as early as 2009, the year when 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) was formed.

The “FinCEN Leaks” that was scrutinised by BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) flagging such suspicious transactions.

SARs must be filed with the US’ FinCEN when potential offences such as money laundering has been suspected, within 60 days of detection.

ICIJ said 27 banks had been flagged in transactions involving Low, with eight SARs involving 103 transactions worth US$2.53 billion (RM10.39 billion) were included in the leaks.

Five banks had lodged such SARs: Citibank, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, HSBC Bank USA, JPMorgan Chase Bank, and The Bank of New York Mellon.

 

“Since 2013, the Bank of New York Mellon, JPMorgan Chase and other banks have reported more than 100 suspicious money transfers to and from companies linked to Low and the 1MDB scheme. 

“They reported more transactions after the US government sued Low in July 2016, seeking to seize his assets,” ICIJ said.

Low could not be reached for comments by ICIJ.

Wanted Penang-born Low, known to the world as Jho Low and derisively “the billion dollar whale”, had in January, insisted that he is not the mastermind of the alleged fraud of 1MDB as portrayed publicly.

He is believed to be in hiding in Macau, with Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador claiming that the Chinese government is allegedly protecting him.

In July, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was pronounced guilty of committing three counts of criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of 1MDB-linked SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, and a separate charge of abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum.

Last week, 1MDB former CEO Mohd Hazem Abd Rahman told a court hearing that Low was the trusted right-hand man of Najib in 1MDB affairs.

Mohd Hazem noted that while Low had insisted on operating behind the scenes, he was allegedly actually the one who gave orders and instructions on behalf of Najib on 1MDB matters and decisions.

ICIJ said the FinCEN Files is “a cache of financial intelligence reports that reveals the role of global banks in industrial-scale money laundering — and the bloodshed and suffering that flow in its wake”.

It included more than 2,100 SARs filed by around 90 financial institutions to FinCEN between 1999 and 2017, and involved US$2 trillion in transactions.

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