Why was the book titled as such? Lim said he initially thought it was because of Jho Low’s size and appearance. But he discovered the answer in page 3 of the book:
“Casino operators and nightclubs refer to their highest rollers as ‘whales’, and one thing was certain about Low, he was the most extravagant whale that Vegas, New York and St. Tropez had seen in a long time – maybe ever”.
21 September 2018
As he was wooing Kerr, Low also had to keep Rosmah Mansor sated, and in January 2014 he texted Lorraine Schwartz to see if she was in Los Angeles. The jeweler was in town and made haste to the Hotel Bel-Air, laden with luminescent diamond bangles and necklaces. Schwartz drove into the hotel, an exclusive Spanish mission–style retreat favored by Hollywood stars, set in twelve acres of gardens in the heart of Beverly Hills. Rosmah had checked into a plush suite with deep carpets and, after dinner with Schwartz and Low, she invited them up.
Schwartz unfurled her wares onto a table and Rosmah began to pick out items. She pointed at one eighteen-carat white gold diamond-studded bangle, and Schwartz set it aside. It cost $52,000, but Rosmah was only getting started. With the ease of a professional shopper, the first lady quickly picked out 27 bracelets and necklaces.
No one talks money in these elite circles, and it took a few months for the bill to arrive at Black rock, Low’s company. The total was $1.3 million — quite a moderate spending spree by Rosmah’s standards. Low took care of the invoice, and he also picked up the $300,000 tab that Rosmah ran up at the Bel-Air hotel during her week’s stay.
Between April 2013 and September 2014, Low used the Blackrock account to purchase $200 million in jewelry from across the globe: Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong, Dubai. Even more portable than art, diamonds are extremely hard to track.
The Financial Action Task Force, in a 2013 report, warned that money launderers and terrorists used the diamond industry as a conduit for illicit cash. In the United States, retailers like Lor raine Schwartz, or dealers in raw and cut stones, were under no legal obligation to conduct due diligence on clients. Even better, jewels could be transported without having to send money through financial institutions.
Not all the jewelry went to important figures like Rosmah. On one occasion, Low was in Las Vegas when he found out it was the birthday of a young Asian-Canadian model, a hanger-on in his group. On the way to dinner, Low spontaneously ducked into a Cartier store and came back out with a watch, passing it to her without any fanfare as a last-minute gift. The watch cost $80,000.
But it was Rosmah on whom Low showered the biggest diamonds. Imelda Marcos had her shoe collection, at least 1,220 pairs left behind when she and her husband were driven out of the Philippines in 1986 by the “People Power Revolution.” Rosmah would be known for her Birkin bags and jewelry, hundreds of millions of dollars of rings, necklaces, and pendants, arranged in specially made drawers at her residence in Kuala Lumpur.
Despite his penchant for surrounding himself with beautiful and famous women, Jho Low craved recognition of his “power and prestige” more than sex, it is claimed in the newly launched book on the fugitive billionaire.
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World, which was launched on Tuesday, fleshes out the details of Low’s big spending and lavish partying ways prior to him being wanted in relation to allegedly siphoning off billions of dollars via Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund.
The 400-page book, co-authored by The Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, claims that Low spent millions of dollars on parties and champagnes, often with celebrities such as hotel heiress Paris Hilton, in tow – he once bought €2 million worth of Cristal champagne in a bidding war at an exclusive club in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera.
It even details how the financier – wanted in several countries including Malaysia for alleged money-laundering – spent close to US$1 million on just one date with a Taiwanese pop star Elva Hsiao in 2010.
During the date at a luxury Dubai hotel, Atlantis, The Palm, the authors allege Low treated Hsiao to a private beach-side dinner and later presented her with a Chopard gold necklace and pendant with diamonds, purportedly delivered by tuxedo-clad men who parachuted from a hovering helicopter.
“It was a gaudy, laughably clichéd exhibition of love, and as the ostentation piled up, Hsiao wiped a tear from her eye. The event had reportedly cost more than US$1 million to stage, and it was a date, not even a marriage proposal.”
All this took place, the authors allege, while Low was in a relationship with Jesselynn Chuan Teik Yin from Penang, whom he would later marry.
“Low often flew her (Chuan) out to the United States… she would be sequestered in a hotel or one of Low’s apartments, accompanied by the other females in his inner circle, women like Catherine Tan, a former Vegas croupier who organised Low’s schedule, and Jasmine Loo, 1MDB’s legal counsel.
“While Low treated her respectfully in public, he was also in the habit of making gifts of luxury cars and jewellery to other women, and paying for models to mill around at parties in hotel suites, clubs, and on yachts,” the book details.
‘No typical playboy’
Even so, the book further states that the businessperson, whose real name is Low Taek Jho, was “torn by the duplicity in his life”, between his then-girlfriend and other women.
It states: “But he wasn’t a typical playboy. Some of the models whom Low regaled with Cartier jewellery or gambling chips were astonished he never hit on them. Far more than sex, it seemed, he craved recognition, whether from women or Hollywood stars, and he sought to create spectacles that reinforced his power and prestige.”
19 September 2018
In 2009, the world’s biggest movie star developed an unlikely friendship with some obscenely wealthy Hollywood wannabes, whose millions in gifts to the Oscar winner became a focus of the largest corruption case in U.S. history.
On the morning of July 20, 2016, just as Leonardo DiCaprio was preparing to welcome the usual assortment of models and multimillionaires to his annual champagne-soaked charity gala in Saint-Tropez, the U.S. Department of Justice was unveiling to the public the results of its investigation into one of the biggest corruption scandals ever, an embezzlement scheme estimated to have reached a staggering $4.5 billion.
The forfeiture complaint, filed in Los Angeles, listed more than $1 billion of U.S. assets — including Hollywood mansions, New York apartments, private jets, artwork and, most notably, the 2014 blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street, which garnered five Oscar noms and grossed almost $400 million globally — that it said had been bought with money illicitly obtained via myriad financial structures from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB. Among those cited in the DOJ’s filings were Riza Aziz, the stepson of then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the producer who set up Red Granite Pictures alongside Joey McFarland with the help of $64 million tapped from 1MDB. Then there was Jho Low, the flamboyant financier and big spender who had successfully leveraged his close ties with Razak to use 1MDB to his advantage.
DiCaprio’s connection to the 1MDB scandal can be traced back to October 2009 and his relationship with Low. Still in his late 20s yet newly flush with what the government claims was $700 million in allegedly siphoned 1MDB funds, the baby-faced Malaysian had embarked on a wild U.S. shopping spree — regularly dropping millions of dollars in A-list nightclubs as he attempted to lure celebrities into his paid-for orbit. Paris Hilton and Jamie Foxx were among those drawn in by his seemingly bottomless pockets, and he reportedly dated Miranda Kerr. But DiCaprio was the prized asset.
Alongside the gifts that he would shower on his new friend DiCaprio — including a lavish trip to South Africa to watch the 2010 World Cup, a Basquiat painting and even Marlon Brando’s Oscar for 1954’s On the Waterfront — Low would become a neighbor, spending $39 million (traceable back to 1MDB) on a vast Hollywood Hills mansion just a few doors down from the star.
Tom Wright has dismissed the allegation that he and co-author Bradley Hope hastily published their book Billion Dollar Whale, which accuses fugitive businessperson Jho Low of masterminding the 1MDB scandal.
“Hastily published? It was three years of our lives!” tweeted the Wall Street Journal reporter.
Wright was responding to a statement published on the Penang-born Low’s website, which described the book as “guilt-by-lifestyle, and trial-by-media at its worst”.
17 September 2018
Tom Wright sat down last week with Coconuts Editor in Chief Chad Williams in Hong Kong to talk about the damage that’s been wrought, the people who bear responsibility, and who is likely to face justice.
Coconuts: How much of a role did the 1MDB case ultimately play in Malaysia’s stunning election upset in May?
Wright: I’d say it was crucial. Not just our reporting, but Sarawak Report, The Edge … I think that without the reporting on that scandal, the government would have stayed in power, because I think there’s a run-of-the-mill [level of] corruption in Malaysia that people are pretty inured to — and then there was this scandal.
A lot of people say “didn’t it also happen under [former and current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed]?” and there certainly was a lot of corruption under Mahathir. But with the amount of money there is in the global financial system now, the ease with which countries can raise capital — and in this case, they easily raised $6.5 billion very quickly with Goldman Sachs’ help — that meant the quantum of corruption was much higher, and I think that’s what eventually captured people’s imagination in Malaysia.
There’s a lot of cynical commentary out there. People saying “Well, y’know, Malaysians don’t understand 1MDB,” and that’s not true. They do understand it. They know that a ton of money was stolen, and it wasn’t just 1MDB and the intricacies of that complicated scandal, it’s a testament to a society and a system that has become incredibly corrupt over the years, enabled by Western financial institutions and expatriates.
Q: How much do you believe Najib and Rosmah were in the know? How much of the blame for this can they be apportioned?
A: When we started reporting this three years ago, it seemed very much like Jho Low was some kind of bag man for Najib. The New York Times did a story in February 2015 about Jho Low’s apartment in the Time Warner Center in New York City, and it painted him very much as a bag man, and that was sort of everyone’s understanding at the time.
But then Sarawak Report came out with a story about Jho Low taking the money into his offshore accounts, and then as we kept reporting, it became clearer that Jho Low was really the only character who had a 360 (degree) view of what was going on.
I don’t think Najib is blameless, by a long degree. I’m sure he knew it was a political slush fund, that they were getting hundreds of millions of dollars for [former ruling political party] UMNO, and that his family was getting mansions and running film companies and all this kind of thing, which he may have just seen as a benefit of being prime minister. Terribly corrupt. Not saying it’s not. But did Najib know that Jho Low had run the fund in a way that took out US$4.5 billion, US$5 billion, maybe US$6 billion dollars? I don’t think so. I think he was disengaged from the day-to-day processes in a way that Jho Low was not. Jho Low was running the show.
Q: Was there a particular moment when Jho Low’s centrality to all this suddenly came into focus for you guys?
A: I think when we got hold of WhatsApp messages between Jho Low and a number of people, including bankers at Malaysian banks, where he is clearly directing them to do this with money, do that with money, move money into the prime minister’s accounts, out of his accounts. You saw through those WhatsApp messages that he was the puppet master … telling the bank that US$680 million would be arriving from overseas.
Read the whole article here:
In April 2013, a socially awkward 30-year-old Asian financier named Low Taek Jho — aka Jho Low — recorded a ballad, “Void of a Legend,” at Jungle City Studios in Chelsea.
Friends including rapper/DJ Swizz Beatz were there to assist on the vanity project when Busta Rhymes and Pharrell Williams dropped by.
Low, inebriated, called out to Rhymes, “Yo! I own you! You’re my bitch!”
Rhymes was put out but said nothing as Williams made small talk to cover everyone’s embarrassment. Low had meant nothing negative. It was, to him, a clunky, playful reference to the $100 million he had just spent for a share of EMI Music Publishing, one of the top publishers in the music world and with clients including Rhymes.
It was also a rare misstep for Low among his celebrity friends, whom he usually treated with great reverence and unprecedented generosity, such as the time he gifted a $9.2 million Basquiat to his good buddy Leonardo DiCaprio.
16 September 2018
PETALING JAYA: The leaked version of the Billion Dollar Whale book on how fugitive businessman Jho Low had allegedly played a role in the 1MDB scandal is making its rounds on social media.
The 306-page e-book, in Portable Document Format (PDF) version, has been making its round via WhatsApp in Malaysia and Singapore since Thursday evening. It was rapidly shared among users.
It is learnt that MPH customers in both countries who pre-ordered the book had cancelled their orders after they found the leaked copy.
Wright has cautioned against forwarding the leaked copy.
“If you have received an illegal galley copy of Billion Dollar Whale, please tell the person sending it to you that Hachette (publishing company) will take legal action against them. The copy has an embedded digital footprint,” Wright said in a WhatsApp message to The Star.
Singapore-based former book publisher John Francis said the leak would have a big effect on the sales of the book.
“Some of my friends who had asked MPH to reserve their copies cancelled the orders.
“It is wrong to secure the leaked version, which is akin to pirating copy.
“But there is no way to stop people from going for free stuff,” he said.
Francis said readers should respect the intellectual property and copyrights of the book and its authors.
Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/09/16/book-on-jho-low-leaked-and-distributed/#GAB162WpbCCixHtK.99
For Jho Low’s 31st birthday celebration in November 2012, he allegedly splashed millions of US dollars to get Britney Spears to briefly pop out of a fake birthday cake, for South Korea’s Psy to do a live show, and for Alicia Keys’ husband to arrange things.
This was part of the book “Billion Dollar Whale” shared by DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang in a speech at Teluk Intan, Perak today (Sept 15).
Lim cited the book about how Low had allegedly hosted a circus-themed extravaganza that would be known in Las Vegas as the most expensive private party ever held.
The party supposedly included an indoor Ferris wheel, circus performers, and a who’s who of Hollywood – including stars like Leonardo DiCaprio.
Spears reportedly took a six-figure sum in US dollars for her brief cameo while Swizz Beatz, Low’s producer friend and husband of Keys, received US$800,000 (RM3.31mil) for an evening’s work.
“Low arranged for every aspect of the event to be paid from the 1MDB bonds,” Lim claimed in his speech during the opening of the DAP Teluk Intan service centre.
The book “Billion Dollar Whale” is written by the Wall Street Journal’s two award-winning journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope.