Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman in 1MDB scandal appears deserted

The Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho appeared deserted on July 21, 2016.
The Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho appeared deserted on July 21, 2016.ST PHOTO: LI XUEYING
The Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho appeared deserted on July 21, 2016.
The Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho appeared deserted on July 21, 2016.ST PHOTO: LI XUEYING
The Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho appeared deserted on July 21, 2016.
The Hong Kong office of Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho appeared deserted on July 21, 2016.ST PHOTO: LI XUEYING

HONG KONG -  Hong Kong is where Mr Low Taek Jho, or Mr Jho Low, was based.

Here, he allegedly helped pay for millions of dollars in jewellery ordered by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wife Rosmah Mansor, according to a New York Times article. She apparently had a fondness for rings and bracelets - of coloured diamonds, emeralds and rubies. 

It is also here that Mr Low, 34, has an office on the 19th floor of the Agricultural Bank of China building in Central,  from which he runs his private equity and advisory firm Jynwel Capital. Along with his brother Szen, he appears to have a hand in everything from luxury hotels to minerals extraction to lingerie. 

On Thursday morning (July 21), his office  - expensively decked out in marble - appeared deserted. 

No receptionist was on duty behind the impressively heavy door that bars visitors. When the door bell was rang, an employee emerged but refused to give any details. 

She said she knows nothing about the lawsuits filed by the United States Department of Justice to seize over US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in assets, associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds "pilfered" from Malaysia's state investment firm,  1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Mr Low was named as among those who conspired to fraudulently divert the money.

As for Mr Low's whereabouts, she said she did not know either. On whether he was in the office, she retorted: "I don't know, it is a big office. And why should I tell you?"

Asked if The Straits Times could meet his media team, she said to wait for replies to the e-mail sent the night before. None has been forthcoming.

It has been rumoured that Mr Low could be in Taiwan or China, both of which have no extradition treaties with the US. Hong Kong signed an extradition agreement with the US in 1996. 

But previously, Mr Low was - it seems - almost everywhere. 

In a seven-minute corporate video, he shook hands with corporate honchos in New York, Abu Dhabi and St Lucia, hugged singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and oversaw a photo shoot of a lingerie model.

 

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Jynwel Capital appears to have had partnerships with companies as disparate as boutique hotel group Viceroy, the Mubadala Development Company owned by the Abu Dhabi government, and EMI music publishing and Sony ATV to form the "largest music publisher with over 3.6 million songs".

"Trust is the fundamental aspect to our way of life," concluded Mr Low. "It's about how each deal changes a community, a country and the world."

His last entry on his blog linked to his company website was made four months ago, on March 30.

It was about jaguars.

Mr Low, who in recent years has sought to draw attention to his philanthropic work, offered a quote by Dr Alan Rabinowitz, the chief executive officer of Panthera, an organisation focused on the conservation of wild cats.

He wrote: "The fact that jaguars have been more resilient and, in many ways, more lucky in their survival than other big cats is exactly why we should focus our attention and conservation on them."