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Country housing Jho Low refusing to cooperate

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Malaysian police say they know where he is as unconfirmed reports claim the fugitive is in Cyprus

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysian fugitive Low Taek Jho, wanted over a multi-billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), is living in a country that has refused to cooperate on efforts to bring him back, Malaysia's police chief said yesterday, according to the state news agency.

Unconfirmed reports out of the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus claimed he was living there.

Low, also known as Jho Low, has been charged in Malaysia and the United States over the alleged theft of US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) from 1MDB, set up by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.

Low has denied wrongdoing.

His spokesman has said that Low had been offered asylum in an unidentified country and did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment yesterday.

Malaysian officials have located Low but the country where he has sought refuge has not been cooperative, police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said.

"We have sought the country's cooperation to return him (Jho Low) here, but he appears to be immune under the protection of the nation's authorities," Inspector-General Abdul Hamid was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama, without naming the country.

"We have tried various approaches, but they are giving us many excuses such as he has since undergone cosmetic surgery."

Inspector-General Abdul Hamid previously denied reports that Low was living in the United Arab Emirates or the United States. Enforcement officials earlier said the fugitive was believed to be in China.

1MDB is at the centre of money laundering probes in at least six countries, including the US, Switzerland and Singapore. The US Justice Department said last week it had struck a deal to recover US$1 billion in funds allegedly looted from 1MDB by Low, in a record haul for a US anti-corruption probe.

The case has also led to the scrutiny of Goldman Sachs, which Malaysia has accused of misleading investors over bond sales totalling US$6.5 billion that the bank helped raise for 1MDB.

Malaysia had rejected an offer of US$2 billion in compensation from Goldman over the scandal, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the Financial Times last Friday.

Dr Mahathir said yesterday the offer was too low and Malaysia would resort to legal action if a deal with Goldman could not be reached.

"They've caused us to lose about US$7 billion," Dr Mahathir told reporters, according to Bernama.

"They may not want to pay us that amount... but if we cannot reach an agreement, we've to go to court." - REUTERS