MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Sunday, July 31, 2016


BILLIONAIRE, playboy, philanthropist.
No, not Tony Stark (if he was involved in embezzling funds), but Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho, 34, who is a prime suspect in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. (If you haven’t been following the 1MDB saga, click here to find out what the fuss is about.) Those have been the words used to describe him in various media reports and profiles; from The Sunday Times to The Guardian.
On Thursday (July 21), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), seized $240 million worth of 1MDB linked assets, half of which belong to Mr Low, who is also known as Jho Low, and his family.
MAS added that its investigation into the wealth fund revealed that many Singapore-based banks need to tighten up their anti-money laundering controls, as it found weaknesses and lapses. Five banks were named: BSI, DBS, Standard Chartered, UBS, Falcon Private Bank and Raffles Money Change. BSI was ordered to close earlier this year due to multiple breaches of anti-money laundering regulations.
Just hours before, Mr Low was named in a lawsuit filed by the the US Department of Justice, which is looking to seize assets linked to US$3.5 billion ($4.7 billion) worth of misappropriated 1MDB funds.
Mr Low’s involvement in the 1MDB Scandal
In February last year, the Malaysian billionaire’s name was first brought into the mix after leaked email correspondences revealed that he was responsible for 1MDB’s controversial joint venture with PetroSaudi International.
PetroSaudi is a relatively unknown company, and was said to be a front for many of Mr Low’s dubious deals. This included a US$700 million (S$950 million) loan that was supposed to be paid to them, but it is suspected that it went straight into his pocket. The money went into a Swiss bank account in the name of a company called Good Star, owned by Mr Low.
At first, Mr Low denied all allegations, even claiming that he was targeted because he was young, rich and Chinese.
“I feel like I’m an easy target and victim perhaps because of my age and unfortunately, from the things done in my early years, the partying where I was having a bit too much fun.”
However, in the recently filed lawsuit, Mr Low has been accused of using Good Star to launder US$1.03 billion ($1.4 billion). US$400 million ($540 million) of these funds are said to have been brought into the US through Good Star, and used for “the personal gratification of Low and his associates.”
It seems to be more and more likely – from media reports – that Mr Low has been a mastermind in this narrative. It is said that he helped develop 1MDB from Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) into what it is today.
For a full timeline of events, refer to our infographic here.
Billionaire, playboy, philanthropist
Mr Low has amassed quite a reputation as a big spender – even before he was first linked to the money laundering saga.
In 2009, Mr Low burst onto the New York nightclub scene. Seen canoodling with socialite Paris Hilton among others, he quickly became known for being a playboy and throwing lavish parties.
Image Paris Hilton Net Worth by Flickr user celebrityabc. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The New York Post paints a picture of a flamboyant party animal who had no qualms about splashing his cash, often at exorbitant, high profile parties. With the Big Apple as his stomping ground, Mr Low spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at night clubs. He once flew eight waitresses from a New York bar to an after party in Malaysia. For actress Lindsay Lohan’s 23rd birthday bash in 2009, he bought her 23 bottles of champagne.
Of course, when his own birthday rolled around that same year, he celebrated it with just as much vigour. Arriving at all destinations flanked with Cadillacs, Mr Low’s birthday celebration was a four-day event in Las Vegas that included a pool party adorned with caged lions and tigers.
His antics caught the attention of tabloids, which were abuzz with rumours, some claiming that Transformers star Megan Fox flew down to party with him.
In 2013, Sarawak Report claimed that Mr Low flew his pals on two private jets from Sydney to Las Vegas so that they could “double-countdown” the year. Pictures from that night posted by his pals on Instagram show fancy yachts and expensive drinks that could only have been achieved through extravagant spending.
Jamie Foxx even bragged about the incident on The Jonathan Ross Show.
“I got a friend, you know he got some money and he flew me, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and some other cats and we flew to Australia, right. And we did the countdown in Australia then jumped back on a plane and then did the countdown in Vegas. That’s crazy! That was nuts!”
Mr Low’s A-lister friends may have come from his foray into the film industry via Red Granite Pictures, a Hollywood production company, founded by Riza Aziz and Joey Mcfarland, which Mr Low helped to set up. It was in Harrow where Mr Low became good friends with Mr Aziz, who is the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Image Leonardo DiCaprio by Flickr user Danny Harrison. (CC BY 2.0)
Red Granite Pictures has denied using money from 1MDB to fund its projects, most notably the award winning movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. Not many are buying this. Critics continue to believe that Mr Low diverted 1MDB funds into the production company through Good Star.
Hollywood heartthrob DiCaprio even gave Mr Low a shout out when accepting his Golden Globe, which he won for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street, thanking “Joey, Riz, and Jho”. Mr Low’s name was also listed in the credits of the movie.
Mr Low doesn’t just spend money on parties. He has acquired a taste for expensive properties, especially in the New York area. He purchased a US$30.55 million ($41 million) penthouse in the Time Warner Center, which Beyonce and Jay Z once lived in. Another US$23.98 million ($33 million) went to a condo at the Park Laurel, and US$17.5 million ($24 million) to a Beverly Hills mansion.
Closer to home, Mr Low paid up $54 million in 2013 for two units in TwentyOne Angullia Park along Orchard Boulevard. One of the units was a $42.9 million penthouse, putting it as one of the priciest properties in Singapore.
Aside from real estate, Mr Low also has a penchant for art. With his art collection bedazzled with names like Monet, Basquiat and Rothko, he is also said to have been the customer behind the most expensive painting ever purchased – Picasso’s US$141 million ($191 million) “Women of Algiers”.
Image Women of Algiers, after Delacroix [1955] by Flickr user alltollz_org. (CC BY-ND 2.0)
As for Mr Low’s philanthropy, after his brush with cancer in 2012, he founded the Jynwel Foundation. Committing millions to cancer research and to the preservation of wild cats, he has also directed his funds to more honourable pursuits.
“Jynwel Foundation is built on the Family’s heritage & vision for investing in society, and seeks to fund breakthrough programs that are working to solve the world’s toughest problems in global health, education, and conservation.”
The source of Mr Low’s riches
The million dollar question we end up with here is: Where did he get his cash from?
It certainly helps that Mr Low was born into wealth. The son of a rich businessman and the grandson of a liquor and mining magnate who made fortunes in Thailand, Mr Low went to Harrow and then the Wharton School of Business.
Aside from dipping into the family accounts, Mr Low claims to have made his own money though investments, including selling real estate in Johor in 2009. He built up a £650 million ($1.1 billion) investment fund, and runs Jynwel Capital, a Hong Kong fund which has media, retail and property investments.
If the reports and rumours are right, it may not be only his family’s cookie jar that he’s been putting his hands in. - http://themiddleground.sg/

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha. Imagine Jho Low paying millions for art when he can't even differentiate stick man characters and think they are Chinese characters.


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