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Friday, January 13, 2017

Shame on you, Jho Low



When flamboyant Malaysian wheeler-dealer financier Low Taek Jho’s father and three other relatives travelled to the United States to stop the seizure of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) assets worth over US$1 billion by the US Department of Justice, I had asked a simple question.
Why was Jho Low himself not in the forefront? After all, the flamboyant Low was supposed to be the full-fledged owner of the assets purchased under his name in the United States.
Was he no longer interested in his own hard-earned assets especially at a time when he was splashing tonnes of money around buying expensive paintings that we never got to enjoy?
We now know that the money had apparently originated from the Tanore account, which Low also used to acquire a substantial stake in a luxury hotel in New York City. This is the money siphoned from the 1MDB account.
Low was in the limelight for a while, showing off what he had amassed over the years. He had even boasted about his Hollywood ties and links with celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Leonardo Di Caprio. Some of these celebrities, especially Di Caprio, have since soiled their own reputation after the 1MDB scandal was exposed worldwide.
I believe scriptwriters and movie directors are now waiting for its conclusion before the movie blockbuster is released, which will be hard for the people to erase from their minds for many years to come. In the same way, the memory of the Titanic, which sank in the Atlantic Ocean, still lives on.
There were also rumours that Low had even celebrated his birthday in the US on one day, and flew with his celebrity friends to South Korea for another birthday bash the next day. In South Korea, he was apparently joined by Psy of Gangnam Style fame.
Immature of Jho Low
To me, that was silly of Jho Low, typical of someone who has never had to worry about having food on his table. Anyone’s guess would be right that his flamboyant lifestyle would be short-lived once the authorities cast their dragnet to nab him for his involvement in one of the biggest scandals in the world.
Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap. No matter how clever the squirrel is at climbing the tree, one day, it will still fall.
When Jho Low falls this time, he will come crashing down far worse than what happened when Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall. Although the king’s men and the king’s horses came to Humpty Dumpty’s help, they could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Shying away from the limelight now, Low has apparently gone into hiding. I believe the moment both Low and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz, stepped foot on US shores, they would be called in by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for further investigation, as both of them do not enjoy diplomatic immunity like Najib.
In fact, according to Bloomberg, Low has now been identified as a “key person of interest” by the Singapore police for his involvement in the money-laundering case involving 1MDB.
It was also revealed in the Singapore court recently that Low had impersonated as one Eric Tan (which former Falcon Private Bank branch manager Jens Fred Sturzenegger realised was another person, Tan Kim Loong) to open bank accounts and other corporate entities.
Since then Sturzenegger has been “sentenced to 28 weeks in jail and fined S$128,000 for failing to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, not highlighting suspicious transactions and providing false information to authorities.”
There is no reason not to believe that the same Jho had impersonated as the Arab prince in Najib’s Ali Baba fairy tale to the nation about the RM2.6 billion in his personal accounts, judging from the way the letter had been written. The contents of the letter were, if anything, very childish, befitting a primary school kid’s level of maturity.
It is already known from the civil suit filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that the RM2.6 billion which found its way into Najib’s Am Islamic Bank private accounts came from Tanore, a company owned by Tan Kim Loong. It is also learnt that two of the accounts under the names of Tanore and Granton had received a total of US$1.265 billion in March 2012.
The Wall Street Journal in a report dated April 19, 2016 stated that Low, now famous for his 681 American pies, was in fact Najib’s confidant. This is consistent with the US DOJ’s report quoted by former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Page 67, paragraph 229. “Funds transferred to the Tanore account were distributed for the benefit of at least one public official associated with 1MDB. More particularly, very shortly after the bond offering closed, between approximately March 21, 2013 and March 25, 2013, US$681,000,000 was transferred from the Tanore account to an account belonging to MO1 (Najib). Of this amount, approximately $620 million was returned to the Tanore account on or about Aug 26, 2013.”
Did Najib not say that the balance of the money had been returned to the Arab prince? Will the Arab prince please stand up!
Time to own up
Despite the revelation by Sturzenegger, I believe no red alert has been issued to look for Low yet, so why does Low not go to Singapore voluntarily to clear his reputation? He should not be afraid to give his full cooperation to the Singapore authorities and help in the investigation.
I believe the 35-year-old would also be able to clear the reputation of his father, Larry Low Hock Peng, who is a major shareholder of MWE Holdings and Najib, if he can provide documents to prove that the money seized by the Singapore authorities came from his business ventures or otherwise inherited from his father’s business.
He may also be able to clear the names of his ex-banker Yeo Jiawei and other accomplices who are currently facing charges or already sentenced to jail in the island republic. Some like Yeo have already faced charges and have been jailed for their involvement in the 1MDB money-laundering. They could at least be set free.
Perhaps, the whole 1MDB imbroglio would go away and Low’s personal assets in Singapore worth more than S$100 million, which were seized by Singapore authorities, could be released back to the family.
According to a report in the Straits Times dated July 21 last year, Low’s assets form half of the some S$240 million worth of assets that were linked to 1MDB.
This is nothing in comparison to over US$1 billion in assets which were seized by the US DOJ. I wonder if there are still tonnes of money elsewhere, for example, in Hong Kong.
Low has caused the downfall of many. Although he may be one of the youngest billionaires in the country, Low has the Malaysian public to face when he secretly returns home. He even had the nerve to claim himself to be the director of elections campaign in Penang during the last general election.
And, in my opinion, if he or his father had been involved in Psy’s Gangnam Style concert in Penang in the lead-up to the 13th general election, let us see how far Low can Gangnam his way around the world in his yacht and escape from the long arms of the law! As a Malaysian, I am ashamed of this young billionaire, Low Taek Jho.

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.- Mkini

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