Bangkok: A playboy businessman has hit out at Singapore court evidence that he received "huge" sums of money stolen from Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund as political figures stoke tensions in Kuala Lumpur ahead of elections.
A spokesman for Penang-born Low Taek Jho said allegations against the man better known as Jho Low were politically motivated and "based on unfounded assumptions".
The whereabouts of 34-year-old Mr Low, who hosted lavish parties for Hollywood stars and bought luxury properties in the US, remains unknown.
His luxury 91-metre super-yacht Equanimity has been sailing Asian waters.
"No wrongdoing has been proved in any jurisdiction relating to the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds," the Malaysian Insight website quoted the spokesman as saying, referring to the fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Investigations are underway in at least five countries into 1MDB that was set up by Malaysia's prime minister Najib Razak, including by the US Justice Department which claims that $US4.5 billion was stolen from the fund.
Mr Low's comments came after a Singapore court on Wednesday sentenced BSI Singapore banker Yeo Jiawei, 34, to 54 months jail on charges of cheating and money laundering relating to 1MDB, wrapping up a two year investigation by Singapore authorities that has led to five convictions.
Mr Yeo referred in court testimony to Mr Low as "his boss" and said he had stayed at the businessman's houses and on his yacht.
n Kuala Lumpur, Mr Najib has been attempting to dampen criticism of the 1MDB scandal – the biggest of its kind in the world – amid speculation he is set to call an early election.
Mr Najib told community leaders the debt laden 1MDB had "done its share of good" including paying to send 5700 Muslims for the haj pilgrimage in the Middle East.
"1MDB profits are used to help the people in terms of education and housing programmes, among others, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent," he said.
British-educated Mr Najib, a close ally of successive Australian governments, has denied any wrongdoing despite evidence that more than $US700 million was transferred into his private bank accounts through what investigators say was a web of international transactions from 1MDB.
Mr Najib claimed the money was a donation from an unnamed Saudi prince and that most of it was returned unspent, although he has failed to explain what happened to tens of millions of missing dollars.
Political tensions have risen in Kuala Lumpur after former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week he would support the release from jail and pardoning of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy who he was accused of vilifying for 20 years.
Analysts say renewed hopes that Mr Anwar could return to politics if voters this year throw the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation from power will help unite a fractured opposition alliance.
Mr Najib hit back against Dr Mahathir, accusing him of stirring opposition against the government because he is obsessed with "saving his family legacy and making his son Mukhriz Mahathir prime minister". Dr Mahathir denies the claim.
"He (Mahathir) has no principles and will do anything – including allying with those he jailed, calling for foreign intervention in our sovereign democratic nation, sabotaging our economy and making 100 U-turns if so required to manipulate people's mind, just to meet his desired ends," Mr Najib said in a blistering attack.
Mr Anwar is serving a five-year jail sentence on sodomy charges that are widely seen as politically motivated.
Mr Najib's government is also setting up a royal commission into multi-billion foreign exchange scandal involving the central bank in the 1990s when Dr Mahathir was prime minister.
Dr Mahathir said the royal commission was aimed at sending him to jail.
"Maybe they think that by jailing opposition leaders it will ease their task of winning the general elections but this will not work because the tide of people against the government does not depend solely on opposition leaders," he told reporters.
"The parties themselves are strong enough to win the elections."