Jho Low

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Jho Low
Native name
刘特佐
Born
Low Taek Jho

(1981-11-04) 4 November 1981 (age 38)[1]
ResidenceHong Kong
Nationality Malaysian
St Kitts and Nevis
EducationHarrow School
Alma materWharton Business School
OccupationBusinessman
Parent(s)Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng (father)
Goh Gaik Ewe (mother)[2]
Websitewww.jho-low.com

Low Taek Jho (born 4 November 1981),[1] often called Jho Low, is a Malaysian businessman sought by the authorities of Malaysia, Singapore, and the US in connection with the 1MDB scandal.[3][4][5] He is the beneficiary of numerous discretionary trust assets said by the US government to originate from payments out of the Malaysian 1MDB fund. The prosecutors alleged Low to be the mastermind of a scheme to siphon altogether US$4.5 billion from 1MDB into his personal accounts.[6][7][8][9][10]

Jho Low has been associated with numerous high value transactions, including acquisitions of businesses, luxury real estate, and art, as well as philanthropy.[11] Jho Low is believed to be in China where he travels extensively through major cities secretly. He has managed to travel freely despite the Malaysian police having submitted an Interpol red alert, citing that these actions are politically motivated.[12][13][14]

Low, who has publicly stated that he will not submit to any jurisdiction where guilt has been predetermined by politics and where there is no independent legal process, has maintained his innocence throughout the 1MDB scandal, and contends that Malaysian authorities are engaging in an active campaign of harassment and political persecution due to his prior support of former Prime Minister Najib Razak.[15]

A spokesperson for Low said that he has been subjected to "trial-by-media" from the start and that the Malaysian government has proven time and time again they have no interest in the rule of law.[16][17]

Early life[edit]

Jho Low was born to a wealthy Malaysian Chinese family and grew up in George Town, on Penang Island. His family has traditionally maintained a low profile. His grandfather Low Meng Tak was a businessman born in Guangdong in China.[18] Meng Tak had interests in iron-ore mining and liquor distilleries in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s, and in real estate in Thailand, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.[18] Jho Low's father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng founded investment holding company MWE Holdings.[19][20]

Jho Low was the youngest of three children. He attended Chung Ling High School and The International School of Penang (Uplands) before being sent to the elite Harrow School in London.[19] The school boasts notable alumni, including former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.[21] He took this opportunity to rub shoulders with students from powerful families, including royals from the Middle East and Brunei.[22] In London, he developed a "close relationship" with Riza Aziz, the stepson of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.[23][24] Jho Low then enrolled in the undergraduate program of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School, where he continued to develop connections with Malaysians as well as Kuwaiti and Jordanian interests and began managing money for his friends and family.[11][22]

Low can speak Malay, English, Cantonese, Hokkien, and Teochew.[19]

Business dealings and wealth[edit]

Although earlier in his career Jho Low had often claimed to be investing and making purchases on behalf of other investors or "friends" to maintain a low profile about his family's wealth, in 2015 Jho Low said that his family had considerable independent means.[11][22] While a 2015 New York Times article suggested that his family was of "somewhat deflated affluence,"[11] a 2014 Wall Street Journal profile had called him a "scion."

Career[edit]

Jho Low's first major deal was the Kuwait Finance House's 2006 purchase for US$87 million of a luxury high-rise apartment building in Kuala Lumpur.[18] According to The New York Times, "By 2007, Low had formed an investment group that included a Malaysian prince, a Kuwaiti sheikh and a friend from the United Arab Emirates who 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."[11] By 2010, Jho Low had consolidated his fortune into Jynwel Capital, of which Low was the principal steward.[18]

As steward of Jynwel, Jho Low cultivated relationships with some of the world's largest and most reputable sovereign wealth funds, including Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co and the Kuwait Investment Authority.[25] Jynwel is connected with deals including the acquisition of New York's Park Lane Hotel for US$660 million in 2013 with The Witkoff Group and Mubadala; the takeover of Coastal Energy in 2014 for US$2.2 billion; and the buyout of EMI's music publishing business in 2012 for US$2.2 billion with the Blackstone Group, Sony Corporation and Mubadala.[26] Jho Low was the architect for Jynwel Capital's unsuccessful US$2.2 billion bid to buy Reebok from Adidas AG in October 2014.[27]

Jho Low supported Aziz in the establishment of Red Granite Pictures, a Hollywood production company responsible for films including Wolf of Wall Street and Dumb and Dumber To.[28] Recovery of the rights in both movies were the subject of actions for recovery by the US Government in 2013 and 2016.[29] The claims were settled in August 2018, with the settlement stipulating that the payment should not be construed as "an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of Red Granite".[30]

Jho Low has recently been described as a financial deal maker for high net worth individuals and international institutions.[31]

1MDB[edit]

Najib Razak became Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2009. Soon, he became president of the board of advisers for 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. Although Jho Low never received an official position, he admits that he occasionally "consulted" with 1MDB, and was involved in a number of transactions connecting his own interests with those of 1MDB, which were "arms-length and legally sound."[11][32]

The Wall Street Journal has reported that a $33.5 million condominium in Manhattan was owned by a shell company under control of Low's family trust, and then was sold and transferred to a shell company controlled by Razak's stepson.[33] Another home in Beverly Hills, "known as the pyramid house for a gold pyramid in its garden", was owned by a shell company controlled by the Low family trust, and was sold and transferred to Razak's stepson by transferring shares of the shell company to him.[33]

In October 2016, Interpol published a red notice at Singapore's request to locate and arrest Low in an investigation related to 1MDB fund flows within its jurisdiction.[34] The request for assistance to provisionally arrest Low was sent to the Hong Kong Department of Justice in April 2016, according to a representative for Singapore's police, but the request was rejected by the Hong Kong authorities.[35]

After the Malaysian general election in 2018, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad re-opened the extensive investigations into the 1MDB matter and, despite prior findings by former Malaysian Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission that no crime had been committed, issued arrest warrants against Low.[36] The filing of these charges leading to the arrest warrant were described by a spokesperson for Low as "political reprisal" by the Mahathir regime which was described as having a disregard for the rule of law.[37] In light of the warrants, some consider him a fugitive as he has reportedly been sought by the Malaysian authorities in connection with the 1MDB matter, notwithstanding that Low agreed to assist with the probe.[38][39]

According to South China Morning Post reports, Jho Low is still involved in affairs of his Hong Kong companies. He signed documents for private equity firm Jynwel Capital and non-profit group Jynwel Charitable Foundation in July 2018,[40] even though Malaysian authorities looking to arrest him in connection with the 1MDB scandal which he has stated as politically motivated.[41] He was alleged to have been in discussions with the Malaysian government on a potential deal, but the Malaysian government and he did not come to a deal.[42]

Low allegedly purchased a US$325,000 white Ferrari as a wedding gift for Kim Kardashian in 2011.[43][44] The Department of Justice (DoJ) was reported to have sought restitution from other famous celebrities who had received gifts from Low, among them Leonardo DiCaprio, who has since returned Picasso and Basquiat paintings; and Miranda Kerr who returned diamond jewellery with a market value of US$8 million.[44][45][46]

Jho Low invested $100 million for production of The Wolf of Wall Street, which was subsequently nominated for the Oscars. Leonardo DiCaprio specially thanked Jho Low for his involvement during one of the awards ceremonies.[47] Red Granite, a productions company that was backed by Jho Low, threw a lavish party in Cannes, France, complete with a performance by Kanye West.

In June 2017, the US Government, in proceedings brought against certain assets in the Central District of California, sought return of millions worth of assets derived from the Malaysian 1MDB wealth fund. On 1 November 2018, Low and two ex-Goldman Sachs bankers were indicted by the United States Department of Justice in connection with the 1MDB allegations. None of the allegations have been proven in a court of law and Jho Low has expressly denied any wrongdoing whatsoever.[48][49]

On October 31, 2019, Jho Low entered into a global, comprehensive settlement with the US government forever resolving all civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings without any admission of guilt, liability, or wrongdoing on Jho Low's part.[50][51]

In 2019, Low made news again for his connection to the Burning Sun scandal, however, he was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing and described as merely being caught in the crossfires of two competing Korean companies. [52]

Cypriot Citizenship[edit]

On 3 November 2019, newspapers reported that Jho Low had been granted a Cypriot passport in September 2015.[53] It was reported that Jho Low obtained the passport under the Cypriot citizenship investment scheme "within two days after investing in some property" in Cyprus.[53] At the time, there was no warrant against Jho Low for the 1MDB scandal, however he was already under investigation.[54] The revelation concerning Jho Low's Cypriot citizenship came after the Cypriot citizenship investment scheme came under scrutiny after it was revealed that the Cyprus government, under the presidency of Nicos Anastasiades, had granted citizenship to Cambodian elites.[55]

Politics[edit]

Electioneering in Malaysia[edit]

Consistent with his personal connections to the Razak family, Low supported and funded the Prime Minister with 1MDB cash during the 2013 elections.[22] He organised a free pro-government concert in his home state of Penang featuring American musicians Busta Rhymes and Ludacris,[32] which was criticised by the local opposition government as unfair electioneering even though Low's close friend claimed the concert was for charity.[32][11]

Lobbying activities in USA[edit]

According to a 6 May 2019 United States Department of Justice's indictment, Jho Low was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to gain access to, and potentially influence, Barack Obama's 2012 campaign without disclosing the foreign origins of the money funneled to Obama's Super PAC.[56] The indictment against Low revealed that he directed the transfer of US$21.6 million from foreign entities to former Fugees rapper Pras in 2012 for funneling into the US election.[57]

Low was also helped by former Justice Department employee Higginbotham, who pleaded guilty to a charge in November 2018, to set up bank accounts for a lobbying campaign against the US investigations into the 1MDB scandal.[58][59] In response, a spokesman for Low stated that "Mr. Low has never made any campaign contribution directly or indirectly in the United States."[60]

Social life[edit]

Jho Low has been romantically linked to socialite Paris Hilton, Taiwanese singer Elva Hsiao and dated supermodel Miranda Kerr and numerous other high-profile celebrities.[61][62] He has also been reported seen and pictured with Kate Upton, Megan Foxx and Gigi Hadid.[63] Jho Low gained early notoriety by setting the records of “champagne war parties” across the globe from Paris, Saint Tropez, Sardinia, New York City, Miami and Las Vegas, and was known for spending extravagant sums on New York and Las Vegas parties.[64] On one occasion, Jho Low celebrated New Year’s Eve countdown twice, starting first in Sydney, and then subsequently taking a private 747 Jet with Jamie Foxx, Tobey Maguire, Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio and others to Vegas for a second countdown.[65]

In 2012, Jho Low celebrated an extravagant Las Vegas birthday party where his close ties to celebrities, rappers, and old-money dynasties and finance were readily on display. It started at the $25,000 per night Chairman Suites at The Palazzo, where his inner circle that jetted in from across the globe, guzzled champagne and saw Alicia Keys and her husband and hip-hop producer Swiss Beatz converse with Jho Low, who was accompanied by Kate Upton that night, and the arrival of Leonardo DiCaprio alongside Benicio Del Toro had Mr. Low discuss film ideas with the two mega-stars.[66] At the main event taking place at a giant hangar specially built for the Vegas party, which must have cost millions per veteran nightlife reporter Robin Leach, there were live performance of "Gangnam Style" by South Korea's Psy, and then Pharrell, Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes and many others, and culminated with Britney Spears popping out of a birthday cake to serenade Mr. Low with a rendition of happy birthday. The party continued into the wee-hours of the morning and saw appearances from then-dating Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis taking a break from the set of The Hangover Part III, and more live performances from the likes of Usher and DJ Chuckie, with Jho Low eventually leaving in a celebrity-packed Limousine back to The Palazzo.[67]

Philanthropy[edit]

Although Low originally gained notoriety for being linked to celebrities while enjoying a prominent social life in New York City, he evolved to be a serious player in global mergers and acquisitions, such that his considerable efforts in philanthropic pursuits came into focus.[68][69]

Low's philanthropy began after a reported cancer scare in 2012.[26] He then founded Jynwel Foundation to honour the Low family tradition, started by his grandfather, of financing schools, hospitals and community centres in his hometown. Low's grandfather died from cancer in 2013.[26]

In 2013, Jynwel Foundation committed US$50 million over 12 years to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the hospital where Jho Low spent six months recovering from his infection and cancer scare.[26][70] The funds were to begin a pilot program using IBM's Watson question answering computer system as a clinical decision support system in cancer.[71][72] The plan was to acquire, analyse and organise vast amounts of data to help physicians determine the most promising treatments for cancer patients.[73]

Low, on behalf of the Jynwel Foundation, underwrote Alicia Keys' Keep A Child Alive's annual flagship fundraiser event in New York City from 2012 to 2015. He donated $250,000 to the organisation in 2013 to expand its HIV programs in sub-Saharan Africa.[74][75]

Low committed US$25 million over 15 years to the humanitarian news service IRIN on behalf of the Jynwel Foundation in November 2014, a step intended to fill a funding gap after the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs withdrew support in 2014.[76][77]

References[edit]

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