JHO Low’s 1Malaysian Development Berhad (1MDB) scam epitomises an extremely successful exploitation of the Malay psyche.
He’s an evil genius. Otherwise how do we explain his ability to ingratiate himself to a Malay Sultan at the age of 28 and soon after, the Prime Minister.
It might have been possible that the Low family had from the start wanted him to be an international wheeler-dealer hence his Harrow College enrollment.
There he met boys of pedigree or who were wealthy enough to earn one. The English public schools are where young gentlemen are groomed and the rich lads made gentlemen. Jho Low is of the latter category.
That boys’ school experience must have whetted his appetite for class and exclusivity. What he lacked by way of pedigree would be made up by way of money – lots and lots of it.
And what better place to start that quest than among the rich, ambitious and savvy international undergraduates of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School?
He also acknowledged that back home, where the Malays control politics and the Chinese helm the economy, certain things are held dear.
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He knew for instance that vast majority of the Malays revered their rulers and held the Arab in high esteem. He knew with a ruler’s help he could easily get the politicians and the bureaucrats to work with him.
He also knew that the Malays look up to the Arabs and the latter have what he wanted – money.
He would develop this as his source of strength.
And he was right on the spot. With the combination of the Malay royalty, the politicians, the bureaucrats and the Arabs, he turned himself into the living, breathing wolf of Wall Street.
He portrayed himself as an international man of mystery, a ladies’ man and wheeler dealer, showering his contacts with money, expensive gifts, grand holidays and even grander abode.
He knew that behind every powerful, ambitious and greedy man is an even more powerful, ambitious and greedier woman.
Thus, with the help of several of such men and women, he became the surrogate father to the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) and later the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
In a matter of a few years he amassed for himself, his Malaysian, Arab and American collaborators, their wives, children and cronies, billions of US dollars in cash, jeweleries, landed properties, handbags, wrist watchers and paintings.
He hobnobbed with Hollywood actors and movie makers. He installed Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, the stepson of then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri I Mappadulung Daeng Mattimung Karaeng Sandrobone Sultan Abdul Jalil Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, as an instant movie mogul.
Riza is one of two children of Rosmah Mansor from her previous marriage.
While turning dreams into movies the Hollywood way, Jho Low also turned movie plots into reality in order to build a legacy and perpetuate his intoxication for wealth and power.
He made forays into the political arena by organising and funding the Barisan Nasional campaign during the 2013 General Elections especially in his home state Penang.
It was at that time that he became visible and known to the political elite with his campaign extravaganza that featured Najib and the South Korean singing sensation Psy.
Away from the screaming teenagers, he coaxed the 1MDB to buy lands at way above the market price in Penang. He really believed that he could topple the DAP-led state government and have Penang to himself. He would want to do better than his father, (Tan Sri) Larry Loh Hock Peng.
But his ambition was blown to smithereens when the DAP demolished the BN in Penang and Najib did worst than Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2008.
That was the turning point in the opposition against Najib and the BN that would see them defeated five years later.
His get-rich-quick started to unravel and his favour-buying schemes in the US became the subject of investigations by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
He and his associates, including the rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michael, are now facing charges of illegally funding the Obama re-election campaign – the reward of which might have included the infamous Najib-Obama Hawaiian golf game at the height of Malaysia’s big floods in 2016.
He is also linked to the Republican donor, Elliot Broidy. Their handiwork is believed to have led to Najib’s unofficial visit to the White House in 2017 to ingratiate himself to Donald Trump.
New reports suggested that Broidy and his lobbyist wife, Robin Rosenweig, had tried to negotiate with Jho Low a lobbying deal worth US$75 million.
Broidy came to Kuala Lumpur in May, 2017 to meet Najib’s people but not before calling on Jho Low in Bangkok.
The curtain had fallen and the dragnet is widening. Most recently assets belonging to Jho Low’s mother, Goh Gaik Ewe, had been placed under the forfeiture order.
Jho Low is phenomenal as a deal maker and schemer. He is alleged by United States and Malaysia with the theft of US$4.5 billion (about RM18 billion) in 1MDB money.
But from the historical point of view, an unscrupulous Chinese using the Malay aristocracy and ruling elite to enrich himself isn’t an oddity.
It had happened in the past and is continuing to happen today. In fact, almost always, behind every business deal involving a Malay aristocrat, there is a Chinese wheeler dealer.
Even in the business of managing three mini palm oil estates of less than 500 hectares belonging to a state Islamic agency by a crown prince, his partner is a Chinese.