(Rewrites throughout with comment from Singapore police)
KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 (Reuters) - Singapore on Wednesday said Hong Kong had turned down its request in 2016 to arrest Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who is wanted in connection with an alleged multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at Malaysian state fund 1MDB.
The statement came as authorities in Malaysia continue to try to track down Low, who has been identified by investigators in Malaysia and the United States as a key figure in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case.
The U.S. Department of Justice says an estimated $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates. At least six countries are conducting investigations into the affairs of 1MDB.
Singapore said Low, popularly known as Jho Low, was also a key person of interest to the city-state in its ongoing 1MDB-related probe.
“We issued a warrant of arrest for Low in April 2016, following investigations and charges against him for offences of money-laundering and dishonestly receiving stolen property,” Singapore police said in a statement on Wednesday.
Singapore sent a request to the Hong Kong Department of Justice in the same month for assistance to provisionally arrest Low, but its request was declined by Hong Kong authorities, the police said.
Low’s spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Hong Kong Department of Justice does not comment on individual cases, a spokesman said when asked about the Singapore statement.
Singapore said the arrest warrant and an Interpol red notice against Low have been in force since 2016.
Malaysia has also applied for an Interpol red notice to seek assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong as it seeks to detain Low.
Low is believed to have left Macau for an unknown destination, Malaysian police said on Wednesday, citing an email from Macau authorities.
A day earlier, the Malaysian authorities had said they had asked authorities in Macau to detain Low. They suspected he had previously fled to Macau to evade arrest in Hong Kong.
Malaysia’s immigration department cancelled Low’s passport in June. The head of the department was quoted by Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama as saying he believed Low was using a passport issued by another country in order to travel.
Citing sources, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday that Low had fled to mainland China from Macau via a car or a private jet.
Asked about Low’s whereabouts, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that she was not aware of the situation.
The Macau Judiciary Police confirmed in a statement to Reuters that it had sent a response to Malaysia, but said it would “not disclose personal entry and exit information”.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR, Jack Kim in SINGAPORE, Farah Master in MACAU and Holly Chik in HONG KONG; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Neil Fullick and Martin Howell