One of the most prominent faces of the 1MDB scandal is hitting back. Jho Low, a 34-year-old Malaysian party boy-investor, is a key figure in the scandal, which has felled BSI and entangled a handful of others.
Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, said attempts to link him to recent guilty pleas in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) probes are based on «unfounded assumptions.»
Singapore prosecutors allege he used money traceable to the state fund for his own benefit, including for luxury real estate, one of the world’s largest yachts, diamonds for his girlfriend and the wife of Malaysia’s leader, and producing a Hollywood blockbuster.
Jho Low has been silent and AWOL as the probe unfolds between the U.S., Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Luxembourg. Now, a representative for the businessman is hitting back.
The response was elicited by court filings made by Singapore prosecutors overnight which refer to Low as the central figure in its 1MDB probe, and someone who received «huge» amounts of money.
Low’s response? «No wrongdoing has been proved in any jurisdiction relating to the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds, and this development in Singapore does not change that,» news service«Bloomberg» reported from an email sent by Low’s representative.
This is factually true: Low has not been charged with any crime in any jurisdiction, much less convicted. In March, the U.S. was reportedly preparing to bring charges against him; more than three months on, none have materalized.
His assets such as a $107 million interest in EMI Music Publishing, a $30 million penthouse at Time Warner Center in New York and a $35 million Bombardier Jet being successively seized – something Low and his family are contesting in U.S. court.
«It has been clearly stated by the Malaysian authorities that there has been no evidence of any misappropriation of 1MDB funds.» This is also factually correct: the probe has lain largely dormant in Malaysia, where leader Najib Razak has managed to keep a lid on the scandal.
Swiss prosecutors have revved up the pressure on Malaysia to cooperate with the probe. «The Wall Street Journal» has detailed how Malaysia’s own probes fell short or were even stifled.
Pressure from Singapore, which has sought to crack down hard on banks, private bankers and intermediaries so far in the 1DMB probe, could change that.
A former BSI banker linked to the 1MDB scandal, Yeo Jiawei, was sentenced this week to a further four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty in Singapore to money-laundering and cheating.
Low is allegedly linked to transactions worth hundreds of millions for 1MDB, but accumulated considerable wealth of his own along the way, in part by tapping into connections in the Middle East made during his student days.
In previous interviews with «Euromoney» and the «South China Morning Post», Low has denied accusations of wrong-doing and insisted he was being made a scapegoat.
Previously seen on the social pages of glossy magazines, Low’s appearances more recent have been few and far between since the billion-dollar graft scandal surrounding 1MBD broke.
His movements have been tracked, in part through harbor and marina fees, to Thailand, Cambodia, China and Hong Kong recently, as the U.S. ratchets up the pressure.
«The Wall Street Journal» reported he was holed up at The Peninsula hotel in Shanghai, where a member of staff described him as a long-term resident.