Alleged 1MDB financial mastermind Jho Low is quietly roaming Cambodian waters amid a barrage of headlines over diamonds for a model girlfriend and for the Malaysian first lady.
Miranda Kerr is best-known as the newlywed wife of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel. Lesser known, at least until recently, was that she dated Jho Low in 2014.
The AWOL Malaysian businessman is alleged by U.S. officials to be at the heart of a billion-dollar corruption scheme to siphon money from a state fund. Luxury real estate, fine art and even Low’s jet have been impounded as the scandal unfolds.
Now, U.S. officials are alleging that Low was also an attentive boyfriend and admirer: he spent $8 million on fine jewellery for his then-girlfriend – Kerr, a former Victoria’s Secret model – as well as for Rosmah Mansor, according to court documents reported by «The Wall Street Journal».
More For Rosmah
Mansor of course is the wife of Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak. She allegedly received a $27.3 million 22-carat pink diamond necklace from New York jeweller Lorraine Schwartz in 2014, bought by Low and paid for with stolen 1MDB money, according to the paper.
Oddly, or perhaps politically astutely, Low allegedly spent less on Kerr, who nevertheless received a diamond pendant, earrings, a diamond jewellery set as well as an 11.72 carat heart-shaped diamond on Valentine’s Day 2014, than on Rosmah.
He famously dismissed objections from Switzerland’s Banca della Svizzera Italiana, or BSI, to do his bidding by citing family ties and respect for his elders, arguing it would be «taboo and bad luck» not to carry out the illicit transfers.
Spotted Off Cambodia
His yacht, the 90-plus-meter Equinimity, was spotted near Koh Rong, a Cambodia island. In all likelihood, Low is sweating out the probe on the luxury yacht for fear of being arrested when he touches down.
He has not spoken publicly about the accusations recently, though he and his family have made themselves known to New Zealand courts – to boot Switzerland’s Rothschild as their trustee – as well as in the U.S. to fight an asset seize.
U.S. authorities are now seeking a total of $1.6 billion in assets such as luxury properties and fine art they allege was stolen from 1MDB, including from Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Najib’s Graft Woes
Najib, who has largely been able to duck the probe at home until now, hit back through a spokesman, saying the «gratuitous» naming and shaming by U.S. officials smelt of political manipulation, according to «Nikkei».
The PM may soon find himself with another graft probe on his hands, this one at one of the world’s largest palm oil producers. Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd. issued shares to rural Malaysians as a form of government aid decades ago.
These stakeholders may now tip the balance for Najib, who needs their support if he calls a snap election in coming months.