NEW YORK: Malaysia is resorting to "private efforts" to bring back fugitive businessmen Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, from China, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday (Sep 26).
Dr Mahathir noted that Malaysia had no extradition treaty with China.
"It's quite tricky for us to accuse China of hiding him, so we're trying to work out some ways or private efforts to get back Jho Low from China," Dr Mahathir said in New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.
Jho Low and his father, Low Hock Peng, were charged in absentia in Malaysia last month over money allegedly stolen from embattled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
On whether China shared Jho Low's view of him being a Chinese intelligence asset, Dr Mahathir said: "I don't think so. I don't think China has any respect for him at all."
When asked why he thinks China had not sent Jho Low packing, he replied: "Well, maybe he's a bargaining chip or something like that."
Dr Mahathir said that the number of people involved in money laundering linked to the 1MDB scandal "is so big that it is not possible to get them all at this time".
"It has to be (done) in stages," he said. "We go for the big ones first and since we dedicate ourselves to the rule of law this takes a longer time … we want to provide proper evidence acceptable to the courts.
"For that we need a lot of investigation and documents, and so slowly we will get at all the others."
Former prime minister Najib Razak has been slapped with 38 charges in relation to funds allegedly stolen from 1MDB.
Dr Mahathir was also asked about Malaysia's ties with the Saudis, from whom Najib said he received a RM2.6 billion (US$628 million) donation.
"Well, we haven't made any direct accusation against them," he replied, adding that if they really did give the money to Najib, then they needed to show the evidence.
"So far, no evidence," the prime minister said.