As expected, Elliott Broidy, a former deputy Trump campaign chairman, has been charged in US District Court in Washington, DC for his part in an audacious plan to keep fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho from being arrested on kleptocracy charges in the looting of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
At least seven former members of Trump’s election team and administration have been arrested and indicted on a widely scattered and unrelated series of schemes including Steve Bannon, the presumed architect of Trump’s 2016 victory; successive campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort; Rick Gates, another campaign deputy; Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser; George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser; Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer; longtime political adviser Roger Stone, and others. Some 34 individuals and three Russian businesses were also indicted by in a probe by former special counsel Robert Mueller and his team on charges ranging from computer hacking to conspiracy and financial crimes.
The 64-year-old Broidy reportedly hoped to earn as much as US$75 million by personally lobbying the Trump administration and the Justice Department – including orchestrating a golf game between the President and former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak -- to drop the charges against Low, or resolve them favorably. He ended up being paid US$8 million. For his trouble, he was charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent for a foreign principal. It is believed he has agreed to plead guilty.
Jho Low, a 38-year-old Penang native, remains an international fugitive sought by authorities in the US, Singapore and Malaysia for his part in allegedly looting 1MDB, which the US Justice Department has called the biggest kleptocracy case ever brought. Hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in US real estate and other assets which the US government has seized and repatriated to Malaysia.
Low is believed to be in China although he is said to secretly travel extensively between Macau, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other cities. He is accused of masterminding the 1MDB scandal in which US$4.6 billion disappeared in fraud and mismanagement. He has said he "will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and where there is no independent legal process" and has maintained his innocence. There are persistent rumors that his lawyers are seeking to strike a deal with US authorities for leniency in exchange for the return of billions of dollars in still-missing assets.
Broidy is said to have to have engineered a 3 am phone call (Malaysia time) to Najib in November 2016, shortly after Trump’s election, waking up Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor and promising an invitation to the White House and extending the possibility of a golf game. Najib and Rosmah at that time were afraid to travel to the US for fear of indictment.
Before the golf game could happen, Najib was dumped by the voters and has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his part in looting 1MDB. He currently remains free on appeal while awaiting two other trials. He is believed to have steered as much as US$1 billion out of 1MDB and into his personal accounts.
The Justice Department charged that Broidy and Nickie Lum Davis, an American consultant, failed to disclose to the Trump administration or to the Justice Department that Broidy was acting on behalf of a foreign national. Davis has previously pleaded guilty to one count of violating the foreign lobbying act, admitting that she had aided two other people including Broidy in the effort to arrange the meeting.
Jho Low has also been charged with conspiracy to defraud the US government and steering campaign contributions to politicians during the 2012 presidential polls that returned President Barack Obama to power. Najib managed to wriggle his way into a golf game with Obama in Hawaii although Obama distanced himself from the former premier as accusations accumulated against him.
The filing also described a convoluted plan in which Broidy would meet with a minister of the People’s Republic of China to lobby for the Trump administration to return an unidentified Chinese national to China. The unidentified national reportedly is Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, a China-born tycoon living in an upmarket New York apartment despite his status as a target of China’s notorious Operation Fox Hunt, which has repatriated up to 680 people, among them 40 of China’s 100 top fugitives. The US has accused China of using the operation to repatriate dissidents. Guo is believed to have spirited millions of dollars out of China.
With relations worsening between China and the United States, however, any extradition – of Jho Low from China, or Guo from the United States – seems highly unlikely.