Who is Low Taek Jho?

Who is Low Taek Jho?


Good day everybody,

Welcome to CryptoGod-1's blog on all things crypto. As part of a new series I am going to be looking at some prominent names in the financial, crypto, and general world who made a name for themselves through interesting means, many of which ended up behind bars for their actions. In this instalment I will be focusing on Low Taek Jho, often referred to as Jho Low, who is considered responsible for the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.

 

 

Low Taek Jho

Born into a wealthy family in Malaysia, Jho Low is of Teochew descent and grew up in a place known as George Town, Penang Island, Malaysia. His story is one of corruption, a decadent lifestyle, famous and powerful friends, extravagant gifts, luxury real estate, a superyacht and of course a private jet. He is a businessman and also an international fugitive Jho Low is wanted by authorities internationally for his part in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal (1MDB) and he has been named the mastermind behind it all.

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Low Taek Jho

 

The scheme was a massive fraud and it allegedly siphoned U.S.$4.5 billion from the 1MDB into Low's personal accounts. 1MDB was a Malaysian strategic development company which formed in 2009 but is today insolvent following the corruption, scandal and fraud of funds. Jho Low maintains to this day that he is innocent of these crimes and that Malaysian authorities are engaging in a campaign of harassment and political persecution due to his prior support of the former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

 

 

Family & Educational Background

The Low family had always managed to maintain a low profile while living in Penang Island. Jho's grandfather, Low Meng Tak, was a businessman born in Guangdong, China. During the the 1960s and 1970s Meng Tak had investments and interests in iron-ore mining and liquor distilleries in Thailand, along with real estate in Thailand, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng, the father of Jho Low, was always involved in business and founded his own investment holding company MWE Holdings in 1964. Along with his wife, Evelyn, they had three children with Jho being the youngest.

Jho attended Chung Ling High School and the International School of Penang (Uplands) prior to being sent to Harrow School in London, an elite boarding school founded in 1572. The school is considered one of prestige due to its alumni, which includes former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. While at the school Jho made the most of his opportunities to mix with students from powerful families, including royals from the Middle East and Brunei. Most significantly of them all, Jho developed a "close relationship" with Riza Aziz, the stepson of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. 

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Harrow School, London

 

Once Jho had completed his education at Harrow, he enrolled in the undergraduate program of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. This is the business school of the university and is the world's oldest collegiate business school, having been established in 1881. While there Jho continued to develop more connections with Malaysians as well as Kuwaiti and Jordanian interests. While attending the university Jho began managing money for his friends and family. In 2005 Jho Low is thought to have graduated from Wharton but it was revealed at a trial in December 2022 that Jho Low had in-fact dropped out and never graduated from the university.

 

 

Career & Accomplishments

In the early stages of his career Jho Low often claimed he was investing and making purchases on behalf of other investors or friends. It was later revealed in 2015 that Jho Low had said this to maintain a low profile regarding his families wealth. A 2015 New York Times article alluded to the fact that Low's family was of "somewhat deflated affluence," and Low himself stated that his family had considerable independent means. Prior to that a Wall Street Journal profile noted Low as a "scion," meaning he was the descendent of a notable family.

In 2006 Jho Low secured his first major deal with the Kuwait Finance House's 2006 purchase of a luxury high-rise apartment building in Kuala Lumpur for U.S.$87 million. From there the business deals kept arriving and by 2007 Low was considered to have formed an investment group that included a Malaysian prince, a Kuwaiti sheikh, and a friend from the United Arab Emirates. This friend, Yousef Al Otaiba, later went on to become ambassador to the United States and Mexico, and is now one of the most powerful right hand persons for the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

In 2010 Jho Low ensured to consolidate his fortune into Jynwel Capital, an international private equity investment and advisory firm located in Hong Kong. Jho Low was the principal steward of Jynwel Capital and as steward Jho Low cultivated relationships with some of the world's largest and most reputable sovereign wealth funds. This included Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co and the Kuwait Investment Authority.

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Jynwel Capital Logo 

 

Jynwel Capital was heavily involved in multiple deals for these funds, including for the The Witkoff Group and Mubadala Development Co in 2013 when they worked on the acquisition of New York's Park Lane Hotel for U.S.$660 million. Jynwel Capital was also involved in the takeover of Coastal Energy in 2014 for U.S.$2.2 billion, and also the buyout of EMI's music publishing business in 2012 for US$2.2 billion with the Blackstone Group, Sony Corporation, and Mubadala Development Co. Jho Low also worked as the leading man and face of Jynwel Capital's unsuccessful US$2.2 billion bid to buy Reebok from Adidas AG in October 2014.

Jho Low had also helped friends and the stepson of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to established Red Granite Pictures in 2010. Jho Low and Riza Aziz created this Hollywood production company to make films, including The Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To. Both of these movies were the subject of actions for recovery by the US Government in 2013 and 2016. By August of 2018 the suits had been settled with the stipulation that the payment should not be construed as "an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of Red Granite." The business went defunct in 2018 due to an embezzlement scandal.

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Low Taek Jho at the 'Wolf of Wall Street'

 

By 2016 Jho Low had arguably become the world's most wanted “white-collar criminal.” He disappeared in 2016 when authorities from Singapore, Australia, and the United States began to close in on him and the massive fraud which had taken place with 1MDB. The United States Justice Department noted it was the biggest case of kleptocracy it had ever investigated. Kleptocracy is a term used to describe a government whose corrupt leaders use political power to expropriate the wealth of the people and land they govern. Generally this is done through embezzlement or misappropriating government funds.

 

 

 

1MDB Scandal

The story of 1MBD and Jho Low began back in April 2009 when Najib Razak became the Malaysian Prime Minister. Soon after Najib Razak established the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad while he also became the president of the board of advisers for 1MDB. By September of 2009 1MDB had entered into a joint venture with PetroSaudi International, a private Saudi oil company. This is to create a joint venture company, with 1MDB putting $1bn cash in for a 40 percent stake. 

By 2012 Najib Razak has created and launched the Tun Razak Exchange. This was built by 1MDB with the aim of becoming the new financial district for Kuala Lumpur. Najib had projected the project would bring in RM3.5b ($856.8m) in direct foreign investments during its first phase of development. During mid and late 2012 1MDB also managed to make use of U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs to help sell bonds worth $3.5bn to raise money to buy further assets.

In March of 2013 Goldman Sachs once again helped 1MDB raise a further $3bn in an additional bond sales. This time it was done to facilitate “new strategic economic initiatives” between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. By the end of 2013 the film The Wolf of Wall Street had released and a young Malaysian financier by the name of Jho Low was thanked in the end credits.

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Low Taek Jho & Riza Aziz to the left of Leonardo DiCaprio

 

By 2015 things had begun to take a bad turn for 1MDB and Najib Razak. Reports began to emerge in the Edge, Sarawak Report and The Wall Street Journal that 1MDB was carrying huge loses that would majorly impact the company and the nation of Malaysia. The Journal also claimed that Najib Razak had seen U.S.$700 million from deposits go into his own personal bank account. Najib later denied this claim, noting it was a donation from Saudi Arabia. In January of 2015 1MDB missed a loan repayment of U.S.$550 million, and by March the Malaysian government had been forced to establish a ‘special taskforce’ to investigate 1MDB. Following this Najib carried out a cabinet reshuffle in July to remove deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin following the deputy questioning the Premier Minister on the accusations surrounding 1MDB. These changes effectively end the domestic investigation. By August of 2015 the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission concluded that the money in Najib’s accounts came from donations.

In 2016 the new attorney general, with the previous one have been removed by Najib, stated that the money in the Prime Ministers account was a U.S.$681m donation from a prince in Saudi Arabia and $620m of it was returned. The United States Department of Justice filed a law suit in July of 2016 looking to seize assets. This was due to allegations it brought forward that the assets in question were bought with funds stolen from 1MDB. The lawsuit noted that U.S.$681m from the fund had found its way into the personal account of ‘Malaysian Official 1’, later identified as Najib by both the US and a Malaysian minister.

Swiss and Singaporean investigators also launched an international probe into 1MDB during 2016, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore closing the Singapore branches of BSI bank and Falcon bank. They also fined DBS, UBS, Standard Chartered and Coutts & Co for breaches in relation to funds flowing in and out of 1MDB. The Malaysian Central Bank also decided to fine 1MDB for failing to comply with the Financial Services Act. The Ministry of Finance therefore decided to appoint a new board of directors for 1MDB.

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The sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak

 

During 2017 the United States authorities portrayed how hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB were used to fund lavish spending. Included within this spending was jewellery for the wife of an unnamed Malaysian official. Malaysia decided to enlist the help of Interpol to locate the businessman Low Taek Jho, otherwise known as Jho Low. They believe he is the mastermind behind the vast fraud, which the U.S. justice department believe is worth more than U.S.$4.5billion. This money, they believe, was all siphoned from 1MDB by senior officials and their associates. In August of 2017 the U.S. justice department says a criminal investigation into the fund is underway.

In 2018 change begins to take place in Malaysia as Mahathir Mohamad defeats his former protégé Najib in the May general election. The result put Malaysian politics in disarray, leaving the ruling coalition, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), unseated for the first time since the country’s independence on the 31st of August 1957. As part of his pledge Mahathir Mohamad promises to recover billions of dollars lost in the 1MDB scandal.

The following month, in June 2018, both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, are blacklisted from leaving Malaysia. The authorities end up seizing up to 1.1 billion ringgit (US$270 million) in luxury goods from Najib's properties, including 284 boxes of handbags, US$30 million in cash in different currencies and a jewellery collection featuring, among other items, 14 tiaras. In the summer months over 400 bank accounts linked to 81 people and 55 companies were frozen due to suspicion of links to the 1MDB fund. Within these accounts are roughly 1.1 billion ringgit, and Najib is arrested and charged in relation to a probe into the 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International, in July. In October 2018 Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, is accused of money laundering and tax evasion.

Jho Low is faced with eight charges of money laundering during August 2018, while his father, Low Hock Peng, also faces one charge of money laundering. With the charges filed by the Malaysian police, Low's lawyers decide to launch a website, Jho-Low.com, to proclaim his innocence as Jho Low is nowhere to be found. Within the website they describe Jho Low as a “global philanthropist, investor and entrepreneur”.

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Jho Low's open letter of innocence 

 

The former Prime Minister Najib Razak appears in Malaysia’s High Court for the beginning of several trials in April 2019. During this time Low's superyacht Equanimity, allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds, is sold for U.S.$126 million to casino operator Genting, which renames it Tranquillity. In July of 2019 Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz is charged with money laundering linked to 1MDB. This relates to sums of more than U.S.$245 million.  

In December of 2018 Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs in relation to the 1MDB bond sale, and this led to Malaysia filing charges against 17 current and former directors at Goldman Sachs subsidiaries in August of 2019. Malaysia accused them of misleading investors over bond sales totalling U.S.$6.5 billion for 1MDB.

The second trial for Najib begins in August 2019 with 25 of his 42 charges, which includes the accusation he received 2.08 billion ringgit (U.S.$480 million) in bribes. At the same time the United States authorities are pursuing Jho Low but have yet to apprehend him, noting he is considered a financial intermediary, which allowed him to use his connections to high net worth individuals and international institutions to launder the money stolen through 1MDB.

In February of 2020 Muhyiddin Yassin, who worked as deputy prime minister under Najib, is appointed as the new Prime Minister of Malaysia. This comes following a period of political infighting and results in a government which relies heavily on the support of Najib's party UNMO, where Najib Razak maintains hefty influence. That same month Najib is convicted of one charge of abuse of power, three charges of money laundering and three charges of criminal breach of trust. He is given a prison sentence of 12 years for his crimes along with a fine of 210 million ringgit (U.S.$49.3 million). This is the first of five criminal trials related to the 1MDB scandal.

Malaysian prosecutors agree a U.S.$107.3 million settlement with Riza Aziz in May of 2020. This leads to the dropping the money laundering charges against the former prime minister’s stepson. In a separate agreement in July of 2020, Goldman Sachs agrees to pay the Malaysia government US$3.9 billion to settle the criminal probe over its role in the scandal, but they maintain their innocence and lack of wrongdoing once the criminal charges against Goldman Sachs are dropped by the Malaysian government.

Jho Low’s whereabouts since his disappearance in 2016 remain unknown. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission noted that they believe "individuals wanted for the 1MDB case, especially Jho Low, are hiding in Macau”. They went on to note this had been confirmed by plenty of individuals who had seen Jho Low in Macau, which is an autonomous region on the south coast of China and across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong.

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Macau

 

 

 

Low Taek Jho's Life on the Run

Jho Low lived a decadent lifestyle among famous and powerful friends. This included extravagant gifts, luxury real estate, a superyacht and a private jet. The mastermind behind the 1MDB scandal, he has been on the run since 2016 as the United States Justice Department works to close in on the man responsible for the theft of more than U.S.$4.5bn from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. His whereabouts were always a source of speculation until Malaysia’s anti-corruption body confirmed their suspicions of Jho Low and other prominent members involved with the 1MDB scandal were in Macau.

The anti-corruption body said it had been gathering intelligence since the government issued a travel ban against 1MDB suspects following the 2018 election. Macau authorities declined to comment on specific cases but noted that they want to “emphasise” that “cases involving foreigners” are always handled “in accordance with the law and procedures, as well as relevant international practices”.

Malaysian authorities have claimed they have been rigorously involved in a battle to bring 1MDB fugitives back from Chinese territories. It was confirmed that Jho Low had met with a number of other 1MDB fugitives, including Eric Tan Kim Loong, Casey Tang Keng Chee, Geh Choh Heng and Nik Faisal, in Macau and that Jho Low had instructed them “not to return to Malaysia as a witness in the 1MDB case”.

The first warrant for Jho Low's arrest was by Singapore in October 2016 and then Malaysia in June 2018. By November of 2018 Jho Low had been indicted by US authorities for alleged money laundering, bribery and US campaign law violations. All of this is on top of the Interpol red notices against him. In March of 2023 Kuwait sentenced Jho Low in absentia to 10 years in jail for laundering $1bn of 1MDB funds. Back in March of 2023 Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail  stated that the notice against Low, and four other fugitives linked to the 1MDB scandal, is still very much in force.

 

"Until now, the police are still cooperating with the United States Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), Singapore authorities as well as other national enforcement agencies to track down Low and other fugitives. However, none of the 195 Interpol member countries managed to locate these fugitives in their country."

 

With Jho Low holding up in Macau, Al Jazeera managed to get exclusive access to phone conversation recordings involving Jho Low from between May and November 2018. With these recordings, which were between Jho Low and a representative of the government of Malaysia’s then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a two part documentary titled "Jho Low: Hunt for a Fugitive" was created by the broadcaster in November 2020. 

The conversation highlight how Jho Low was free to move from Macau to Hong Kong and back, stating that he has “restrictions.” “It’s a China thing.” and “If you don’t feel comfortable … meeting in these two locations … I’m happy to talk via phone or video call.” These conversations took place back when Jho Low was trying to negotiate the return of the billions of dollars-worth of looted 1MDB assets and funds in exchange for his freedom.

Malaysian police also noted how Jho Low was being aided and protected by a prominent Macau businessman. This man was also a high-ranking Chinese official, living in his villa in the enclave’s most exclusive residential area, Penha Hill.

Jho Low's has interestingly appeared to continue his operations at the company he formed in 2010, Jynwel Capital. These days it appears to be operating under a different name of Quinton Investments Ltd, while Low also operates a Shanghai-based company he set up in 2015, now known as Guiyue Business Consulting. According to reports the Shanghai company is now owned by a British Virgin Islands entity, Grace Zenith Ltd. This entity has a capital of more than $300m. Jho Low and his wife also registered Mingshi Investment Company with capital of $7m in Taiwan in 2017.

According to Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian ambassador and diplomat in Beijing:

 

“It’s not in China’s best interest to release Jho Low. He knows too much. He was party to every shady deal with China during Najib’s time and China wants that forgotten. It doesn’t want it dredged up again, especially as competition between China and the United States heats up.”

 

On top of that are the tensions experienced between China and Malaysia which would make it quite unlikely for Jho Low to be deported from the nation. There are many Chinese state-owned companies which have billions of dollars invested in infrastructure projects in Malaysia and many of these have either been halted, renegotiated or aren’t going well. China would need these renegotiated and set back on track, along with Malaysian cooperation in their exploration of the South China Sea and to not side with the United States over South China Sea security issues before considering working with Malaysia in getting Jho Low to face his charges.

Below is the two part documentary created by Al Jazeera with their exclusive recordings. Titled "Jho Low: Hunt for a Fugitive," it was released in November 2020.

The second part is available below.

 

 

 

 

 

So there we have it, Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low as he is known, is not the only fugitive on the run due to the 1MDB scandal. However, he is the most prominent and considered the mastermind behind the conspiracy and fraud. Whether justice is ever handed out to Jho Low remains to be seen and it can be safely assumed he is still living the good life, albeit 'on the run.' 

Have a great day.

Peace. CryptoGod-1.

 

You can find the other post's in this series here:

Who Is Ross Ulbricht?

Who is Jordan Belfort?

Who is Bernie Madoff?

Who is Low Taek Jho?

 

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cryptogod-1
cryptogod-1

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