The alleged mastermind behind Malaysia's 1MDB scandal has been sentenced in absentia to 10 years' hard labour in Kuwait for laundering over US$1 billion.
Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, was sentenced alongside a Kuwaiti sheikh and three other accomplices in the latest international case stemming from the multi-billion US dollar scam.
The five men laundered "343.7 million Kuwaiti dinars (US$1.1 billion) while knowing that these sums came from the plundering of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund", said the criminal court of Kuwait.
Sheikh Sabah Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah, the son of a former Kuwaiti prime minister, and his business partner both received 10 years' hard labour, while a Kuwaiti lawyer was jailed for seven years.
Low – who maintains his innocence – and Mohammad Kiwan, also a non-Kuwaiti, received their 10-year terms in absentia. The convicted men have the right to appeal.
According to the court, Sheikh Sabah received the money for a fictitious construction scheme and it was then transferred to different accounts, including in tax havens, using complex financial transactions.
The 1MDB scandal saw billions of dollars in Malaysian public money used to bankroll a global spending spree in everything from art to yachts and real estate, and even funded the 2013 movie "The Wolf of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak was voted out of office in 2018 following the fraud allegations. Convicted in 2020, he is currently serving a 12-year jail term.
But other suspects remain at large including the bespectacled Low – known for partying with Hollywood A-listers – who is accused of orchestrating the scam.
The looting of 1MDB has triggered money-laundering investigations across the world including in Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.
This month, former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a New York court over a US$1 billion bribery scheme related to 1MDB. Low was named as a co-conspirator in the case.
Low's whereabouts have long been the subject of speculation. In July 2020, China denied harbouring the fugitive after Malaysian police said he was hiding in Macau.
Low, who has also been charged in Malaysia over 1MDB but denies wrongdoing, has previously been rumoured to be in other locations including the United Arab Emirates. (AFP)