Top Asian News 3:52 a.m. GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department announced charges Thursday against a fugitive Malaysian financier and two former Goldman Sachs bankers accused in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund created to spur economic development projects in that country. A three-count indictment charges Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, with misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the United States and to help finance Hollywood movies, including "The Wolf of Wall Street."

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — U.S. authorities have charged a fugitive Malaysian financier and two former Goldman Sachs bankers in a money laundering and bribery scheme that allegedly pilfered billions from Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB. The corruption scandal involving the fund had already upended Malaysian politics. The long-ruling coalition was ousted in a May election, and then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, who set up the fund, now faces criminal charges in Malaysia. Last year, the country sank to its worst-ever rating in the influential Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International. Here's a look at the fund and how the scandal has played out: ___

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Hope and anxiety hang over Asia — and north Asia in particular — ahead of Tuesday's U.S. midterm election. President Donald Trump has shaken up Asia, as he has much of the world. Now Beijing, Seoul and other Asian capitals are waiting to see if the Democrats wrest control of at least one house of Congress from the Republicans — and whether that would significantly alter U.S. foreign policy and trade initiatives. In South Korea, the concern is that Trump might sour on North Korea after months of bold engagement. For China, the hope is he might be forced to ease off on trade.

MALE, Maldives (AP) — The first democratically elected president of the Maldives returned home Thursday after more than two years in exile to escape a long prison term. Mohamed Nasheed traveled by boat parade from the airport island to the national capital, Male, where he was welcomed by his party members and supporters. At a news conference, he criticized outgoing President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration as "authoritarian" and said it had put the country under a heavy debt burden. Yameen's government had signed a number of infrastructure projects funded by China, which Nasheed had criticized before as akin to a land grab.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who still wields considerable influence in today's Afghanistan despite being out of office for four years, said Thursday he welcomes the entry of five Taliban leaders who were freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2014 into peace negotiations. Karzai, who led the country from 2001-2014, also said he now supports talks between the Taliban and the United States — but only as a step toward direct talks between the insurgents and a negotiating team representing Afghans from across society. He spoke to The Associated Press on the grounds of the presidential palace, where he lives with his young family and meets regularly with tribal leaders, Afghan government officials and foreign notables.

BEIJING (AP) — Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan and China's President Xi Jinping were preparing to meet on Friday amid concerns over Pakistan's growing fiscal crisis and its ability to repay Chinese loans granted as part of Xi's Belt and Road initiative. Pakistan has taken out billions of dollars in loans from China in recent years for infrastructure projects, the terms of which remain largely undisclosed. China has in total pledged more than $60 billion to Pakistan in the form of loans and investments for roads, ports, power plants and industrial parks. In response to the debt crisis, Pakistan is seeking an emergency bailout loan of $8 billion from the International Monetary Fund, which plans to send a team to Pakistan to assess the situation.

BANGKOK (AP) — When a rap video critical of Thailand's military government became a huge sensation, the authorities first responded with threats to arrest its creators. Then they did what the establishment often does when under fire: try to co-opt the genre. So on Thursday a government "Thailand 4.0" rap video was played to introduce Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's remarks to about 500 attendees of a conference on start-ups. The video was seen as a reaction to the popularity of the music video "Prathet Ku Mee " — translated by its producers as "Which Is My Country" — which castigates the army's domination over Thai politics.

BANGKOK (AP) — Despite rapid economic growth, the Asia-Pacific region has nearly a half billion people who go hungry as progress stalls in improving food security and basic living conditions, a United Nations report said Friday. Even in relatively well-to-do cities like Bangkok and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, poor families cannot afford enough good food for their children, often with devastating long-term consequences for their health and future productivity, says the report compiled by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. In Bangkok, more than a third of children were not receiving an adequate diet as of 2017, the report said.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police are investigating the shooting death of a 46-year-old Greek-Australian man who was gunned down in a seaside suburb of Athens. An autopsy on the body of John Macris was to be carried out. Police were investigating whether his death was related to his potential involvement in the drug trade or in organized crime. Authorities say he had run-ins with police in the past, both in Australia and in Greece. Macris was once the target of an alleged murder plot in Sydney. Australian police did not immediately comment Friday on any potential Australian criminal link to the shooting.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia announced Thursday it will invest in redeveloping a Papua New Guinea naval base as concerns mount over increasing Chinese influence in the South Pacific. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Papua New Guinea counterpart, Peter O'Neill, met in Sydney to sign the joint redevelopment agreement for the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island. The deal will enhance interoperability between the near-neighbors' militaries and lead to more Australian naval visits, the leaders said in a statement. "I want to strengthen our engagement with the Pacific for the Pacific's sake because this is our home," Morrison said in a foreign policy speech.