Jho Low (born Low Taek Jho; November 4th, 1981 - ), is a fugitive businessman wanted by the Malaysian authorities in connection with the 1MDB scandal together with former Prime Minister Najib Razak and former first lady Rosmah Mansor whom both are facing trial currently. He is also accused of being the mastermind of the alleged 1MDB fraud altogether with the US$4.5 billion scheme to siphon from 1MDB into Najib's personal accounts.
Currently, Jho Low is believed to be in China where he travels extensively through major cities, secretly, running away from the authorities who are chasing him down.
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. 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. Jho Low's father Tan Sri Larry Low Hock Peng founded investment holding company MWE Holdings.
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. The school boasts notable alumni, including former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. He took this opportunity to rub shoulders with students from powerful families, including royals from the Middle East and Brunei. In London, he developed a "close relationship" with Riza Aziz, the stepson of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. 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. Low can speak Malay, English, Cantonese, Hokkien, and Teochew. Low has contributed money to various charities. However, much, if not all, of his charitable giving occurred after the 1MDB scandal began to unfold, and thus critics claim that the money provided to various charities was stolen from 1MDB and that Low's charitable giving is simply part of a public relations strategy to burnish Low's tarnished image.
Act of Villainy & Controversies
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 he claimed were "arms-length and legally sound."
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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, even though Malaysian authorities looking to arrest him in connection with the 1MDB scandal which he has stated as politically motivated. 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.
Low allegedly purchased a US$325,000 white Ferrari as a wedding gift for Kim Kardashian in 2011. 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.
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. 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.
On 31 October 2019, Jho Low entered into a global, comprehensive settlement with the US government forever resolving all civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings concerning asset forfeiture claims against various Low-linked assets. The settlement did not resolve the government's underlying money laundering and bribery charges and is not otherwise tied to the ongoing U.S. criminal case against him.
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.
Consistent with his personal connections to the Razak family, Low supported and funded the Prime Minister with 1MDB cash during the 2013 elections. He organised a free pro-government concert in his home state of Penang featuring American musicians Busta Rhymes and Ludacris, which was criticised by the local opposition government as unfair electioneering even though Low's close friend claimed the concert was for charity.